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The Linguistic Landscape of India and clinical Trials  



India , unlike many other countries, has a whole host of different languages, varying from region to region. These languages are grouped into several different families. The major families consist of the so-called Indo-Aryan languages, which are spoken by approximately 72% of the population and the so-called Dravidian languages, which are spoken by around 25% of the population. 


The main official language of India is the so-called Standard, or Modern Standard Hindi, with many regarding English as a second national language.  


Regional languages include, among many other, minor languages spoken by comparatively few individuals, such languages as Bengali, Assamese, Chhattisgarhi, Bodo, Garo, Dogri,  Kannada, Gujarati, Khasi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Kokborok, Malayalam, Maithili, Marathi, Manipuri, Nepali, Mizo, Punjabi, Oriya, Santali, Sanskrit, Tamil, Sindhi, Telugu and Urdu. 


This can naturally make the translation of medical documents, and in particular the necessary informed consent forms for clinical trials, somewhat difficult. These kind of texts are required to be translated to a standard that allows participants in clinical trials to read and easily understand their content. 


Obviously they have to be perfectly accurate in order to prevent misunderstandings or leave participants to feel misinformed or not informed at all. 


With such a wealth of different languages to deal with, it is necessary to find professional translators capable of translating forms from English into at least some of these languages. Although the majority of Indians naturally speak some Hindi and/ or English, using either one one of these languages in such documents is rarely satisfactory. 


In addition, the medical terms used will often have to be translated into more common, regionally used terms. This makes it necessary for translators to not only have the basic language skills, but also knowledge of medical terms, their non-medical local equivalents and also some knowledge of the regional cultures and traditions.  


Very few companies offering translation services are able to translate texts into all Indian languages, but many are offering at least a wide range of the most commonly used variations. 


As consent forms for clinical trials will have to be translated into whichever languages are spoken by participants in order to ensure they are properly informed, this often makes it necessary for the companies conducting trials to employ a list of different companies to translate these forms.  


This is fine as long as certain point are being considered when selecting translating agencies. For one, the translators must have sufficient training and experience, both in linguistics and the use of medical terms. Secondly, they should have certification to certain standards, guaranteeing that they will follow specific procedures and will therefore produce high quality translations.  


Another point to look out for is the type of tools these companies use. Some of the less reputable companies will simply use computer generated translation tools, which can at times lead to serious errors. One of the best tools to look out for is translation memory software, as this will ultimately serve to guarantee consistent accuracy and style, as well as quicker processing.  




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Hindi, Bengali, Kananda, Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam, Marathi, Assamese, Oriya, Sanskrit translation by native translators

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