Unitron’s Senior Marketer On Emotion and Accuracy in Medical Device Translation

To market its line of hearing aid products globally, healthcare company Unitron requires marketing material, instruction manuals, and other critical documentation to be translated into 30 languages for over 70 countries.

Carla Berquo, Senior Manager of Marketing Operations, told Slator at the sidelines of the XTM Live conference in San Mateo, California held from May 31 to June 1, 2017, that the company is passionate about translation done right because marketing involves far more nuance in language, which makes the process even more delicate.

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“Linguists are not marketers, so marketing materials are extremely challenging. Quality is an issue, so we work together (with the linguists) to find the right language that fits the situation,” she said.

Berquo added that rather than directly translating the message, transcreation may be the more appropriate term as there is a need to look deeper into the marketing message to capture context and retain more subtle meanings.

Marketing: It’s Emotional

“People get offended (by marketing messages), they get turned off. It’s amazing how emotional it is,” she emphasized. “I am a foreigner in a foreign country, so I know how it (the message) impacts people who are not reading it in their own language.”

Berquo, who worked at the United Nations prior to joining the Canadian branch of Unitron, said that the translated material must also be respectful of cultures.

“I want to be able to see our products in the countries we work with, and let them know we respect their culture,” she said. “We manufacture hearing aids, so there’s an emotional connection when someone uses our medical devices. It’s critical that we get it right.”

TechDoc: We Can’t Allow Mistakes

For a medical device manufacturer, marketing content is only one side of the localization equation, of course. Technical documentation, too, requires careful translation and adaption for each market. The Unitron executive stressed that in technical documentation, ambiguity just can’t happen. Mistakes aren’t options if it’s about people’s health.

“We cannot allow that. It has to be spot on. You will get your reviewers in your country very upset and that can create a bunch of issues,” she said.

Asked whether translation management systems can help, Berquo said the primary driver for these tools is to meet increased demand for translation, especially when a product needs to ship out to numerous countries and instruction manuals and documentation in multiple languages must be rapidly produced.

“Time is an issue. We’re all working for quicker turnaround time, low costs, and better quality,” she said.

On Machine Translation

Like many executives in other industries, Berquo remains skeptical of the capabilities of machine translation.

“It’s all the hype right now, but I’m not sure yet,” she said. “I’m reading a lot about it and talking to lots of different people to get their perspectives. I do think it’s fascinating. I think it’s going to help a lot in terms of quality and speed. They are getting very good at that with neural networks and with some of the strengths of AI improving I think it will get there. But the human factor for translation is the key. I don’t think you’ll be able to get rid of human translators 100%,” she explained.

Derek Walter

Freelance writer in northern California, writes primarily about technology for various sites, and author of Learning MIT App Inventor