6-2「Translating Titles and Objectives in Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research: Clearly Communicating the Purpose of Research in Japanese-English Translation

トニー・アトキンソン Tony Atkinson

Based in Perth, Western Australia, Tony Atkinson began a full-time career as a Japanese-English translator in 1988 after a decade teaching high-school physics. He began to focus on biomedical and pharmaceutical translation in 1993. He also teaches Japanese-English medical translation at the University of Queensland, and delivers seminars and workshops on pharma translation and English medical writing to pharma clients in Japan.

報告者:リーシーマン   Lee Seaman(Seaman Medical, Inc.)

In this well-attended and information-rich presentation by veteran medical translator and instructor Tony Atkinson, participants learned how to translate journal titles and objectives so that they provide an accurate representation of the Japanese article and the research behind it.  This report is limited to the discussion of titles.

Tony started by quoting the well-known medical writer Tom Lang, that the title is the most important part of article, and the most widely-read.  Because the title is so important, it needs to be accurate and concise.  Translators should spell out all but the most common abbreviations, and check with the target journal, if known, to confirm the journal’s policy on abbreviations.

For-publication article titles come in several types:


A meal replacement improves blood glucose levels in prediabetic individuals with impaired fasting glucose
(Tony noted that this style of title is particularly common in editorials.  If you use a declarative title in your translation, be sure that the title is supported by the research as presented in the article.  Also, declarative titles are not accepted by some journals.  If in doubt, check the Instructions to Authors of the target journal.)


Meal replacement and blood glucose levels in prediabetic individuals with impaired fasting glucose
(This style is safe and widely accepted, and is often preferred.)


Does meal replacement improve blood glucose levels in prediabetic individuals with impaired fasting glucose?  A randomized controlled trial
(The interrogative style of title is not accepted by some journals.)

Citing a specific example, Tony presented the JAMA instructions for authors, which call for concise, specific, informative titles of 150 characters or less for major articles and 100 words or less for other texts, and which prohibit interrogative and declarative titles.

Given these length limitations, the translator needs to find an optimal balance between “short” and “clear.”  Titles should contain the key points of the work, including:

•    Intervention
•    Endpoint
•    Patients
•    Comparator
•    Setting
•    Design — Randomized?  Systematic? Controlled?  Etc.

Be sure to put the most important points first, such as, “The effects of immediate blood pressure reduction on death and major disability in patients with acute systemic stroke: a randomized trial.”
Title style can vary with different journals.  For example, JAMA doesn’t include the study type in the title unless it is a randomized or other specific type of study.  In title layout, the New England Journal of Medicine uses a single continuous title, while JAMA uses a subtitle after a colon.   The medical translator can usually refer to the AMA Manual of Style for capitalization.

Remember that you are not translating just for English native speakers.  Probably most of your readers, both of the title and the full article, will be non-native speakers.  In particular, long noun clusters are difficult to understand for most readers, and especially for non-native speakers.  So sometimes the translator needs to add some prepositions to make the title more understandable:

•    Coronary care unit patients –> Patients in the coronary care unit
•    Long term rat studies –> Long-term studies in rats

Titles should not contain brand names in English, unless there is a specific reason such as comparison with a generic drug.  There is no particular rule about word order, as long as the title is logical and unambiguous, and the important words come first.  

Translators can often improve clarity by omitting the translation of 検討, 確認,研究,and 調査 in the English title.  Also, be sure to translate 国内–> as “Japanese” rather than “domestic” and 外国 as “non-Japanese” rather than “overseas,” because you don’t know where your reader is located.

Sometimes you have to read the material in order to write the title, so translate the title last.  Be careful not to promise something in the title that the research doesn't actually support.  Also, remember that long difficult words are not necessarily more scientific than short simple words; the term “children” is as scientific as “pediatric.”

The session was useful for novices and veteran translators alike; we left the room inspired to create better titles for our future medical translations.