"No, thank you … I am no longer interested in this
Words can make or break the deal in terms of a patient's
interest in participating in a clinical trial. High-quality
translation and cultural adaptation of patient recruitment
materials are crucial. When the translated words don't exactly say
what we thought they said, we could be losing potential clinical
trial participants, along with their interest.
Here's what tends to happen: Once words appear on paper, the
writing team gets excited about the great information provided to
the patient. Then, the translators burst the bubble--there are
words that are offensive, language that does not translate
correctly, and information not applicable to all countries
participating in the clinical trial. This is where an experienced
translations vendor comes into place.
It's extremely important to work with established translations
companies and make them part of the writing and creative processes.
That way the process is more collaborative and there's much less
So, what should we know aboutwriting and translating for
Here are several tips:
Don't be Unintentionally Offensive: Knowing the
Difference Between "You" and "Study Participant"
The English language, with its generic "you," uses one term to
address people in different situations. However, many languages
make a strict distinction between the formal and informal way
people communicate. In a study material (e.g., brochure) we need to
think of the tone: Do we want to say "you," or should we go
with more formal "study participant"? The translation of "you" may
come across as impolite in some languages where it is perceived as
"too direct." This is where recommendations of the translations
vendor come in handy--they understand the reader and thus our
potential study participant.
Be Clear About What You Mean: Using Idioms and
Some idiomatic phrases do not have equivalents in other
languages. For example, a sentence like "Having another set of ears
to hear what the study staff is saying can be very helpful and
reassuring" can be hard to translate. Many languages do not make
the connection between "set of ears" being another person to come
to the study appointment and listen to the staff. The same is true
for puns and word play. It is also good to avoid using words with
Translations vendors work with people living in the target
countries, and these teams are able to provide detailed feedback
about local phrases that would make more sense to the reader. Thus,
we don't necessarily need to remove all "play" from the English
materials, but we do need to pay close attention to how the message
will be interpreted by the reader.
Be Mindful of Your Tone: Curbing the Enthusiasm and
In some countries, it is customary to be quite enthusiastic
about one's cause when addressing an audience of possible
participants. For example, terms like "well done!" or "this is
excellent!" appear frequently in some languages. However, it might
be better to curb some of this verbal enthusiasm when writing for a
foreign audience, as they might not be used to this tone. It might
come across as stilted and awkward or perhaps not entirely serious.
MMG highlights this type of writing to our translations vendors
to ensure that all text is culturally appropriate and keeps our
reader interested and positive about the cause.
Be Inclusive of Your International Audience: Avoiding
What about my country?
We often provide information about medication approvals. This
can, however, differ by country and it is good to write in a
- Avoid saying: Five new studies of the medication are
now being done that will involve 3,000 people with [condition] in
the United States and other countries.
- Instead say: Five new studies of the medication are
now being done that will involve 3,000 people with [condition]
Writing and translating for the multilingual patient populations
is exciting business. It can be a challenge, but it can also be a
learning experience. Build positive relationships with various
translations vendors to create high-quality materials with
appropriate and accurate translations and cultural adaptation
should be the goal-the industry's working on it; come onboard.