The Linguistic Landscape of India and clinical Trials
, 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
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
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
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
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
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.