ULG's Language Services Blog

Leveraging Translation Memories In Clinical Trial Translations


Anyone who’s completed a major translation project knows that it can be a costly, time-consuming process. But those with experience in the language world also know there are ways to streamline workflows, notwithstanding the sometimes daunting task of multilingual projects.

When translating clinical trial documents, Contract Research Organizations (CROs) and pharmaceutical companies look for any help they can get in creating a smooth translation rollout. Highly regulated and terminology specific, clinical trials pose challenging obstacles in terms of cost and efficiency.

A Translation Memory (TM) is one of the most effective tools in alleviating the difficulties that come along with clinical trial translation, and, frankly, any life science translation project.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which a TM can help increase efficiency in clinical trial translations.

Consistency Is Key

When it comes to the life sciences translation services sphere, clear, consistent terminology and wording is crucial to a successful localization project. For this reason, using a translation memory is a big help for research organizations conducting clinical trials. Continually updating a term base or glossary means medical terminology can be validated for multiple language projects, ensuring consistency among clinical terms and jargon.

A TM is a database that keeps track of previously translated segments or sentences of text. Whoever oversees a TM can add or change segments in order to match up with a company’s voice or terminology. When a TM is used with a source document, it will notify a translator of any matches it finds, making it unnecessary to translate words already found in the TM.

Time and Money Saved

CROs and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly cost-conscious as the price of conducting global clinical trials continues to go up. For this reason, a TM is a great resource for research organizations that are working on tight budgets.

Using a TM leverages either 100 percent (identical) or “fuzzy” matches of segments in a text. This means that if a phrase or word has already been translated in the target language, the TM will notify an editor and there’s no need to translate it again. And, usually, clients are charged less than the normal per-word rate if identical or fuzzy matches are found.

Increased Productivity

Because translation memories are automated and can instantly replace source text with memorized term or segment matches, full or partial matches are automatically included in target language documents. This automation speeds up turnaround times and allows CROs more time to focus on the clinical trial at hand.


Another benefit that comes from using a TM is its ability to be customized. This means that research organizations can use different translation memories based on the location they’re working in or demographic they’re looking to engage.

Using different translation memories for different translation projects means you can devise workflows that are specific to the task at hand.

Eliminates Uncertainty

There’s no room for uncertainty or ambiguity when translating clinical trial documents. Making sure patient consent forms, instructions for use and patient questionnaires are correctly rendered in their target language is imperative to ensuring a clinical trials’ success.

Using a well-crafted TM is a great way to gauge accuracy and consistency, creating a reliable document that all parties can refer to when completing the translation and review process. Having an unequivocal term glossary means less chance of inaccuracies and a stronger chance that a clinical trial will produce its desired results.

Utilizing the Right Resources

Accuracy and consistency are extremely important when working on any life sciences translation project, and that’s especially true for clinical trials. Partnering with a strong LSP and using resources like terminology management tools will help CROs produce localized items that will have a better chance of resonating with the necessary end users.

Learn more about ULG's pharmaceutical translation services and clinical trial translation services.