The Necessary and Extraordinary Task of Verifying Ultrasound UI Translations

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Ultrasound machines are highly sophisticated diagnostic tools with thoroughly engineered software. The user interface (UI) and the control panel are critical components of ultrasound systems since they allow the interaction of the sonographer with the machine.

Key information in the interaction elements and content of an ultrasound UI is conveyed mainly through text. Therefore, language plays a crucial role in a user-friendly operating system. Ultrasound UIs are generally developed in one source language. Yet, manufacturers of ultrasound systems with worldwide reach need to have their products localized into a wide variety of languages to meet global users’ needs.

Translating ultrasound UIs is a highly complex process: professional linguists have to deal not only with the specific terminology of multiple medical specialties, but also with digital imaging-related content. In addition, limited screen real estate, as well as space limitations in control panel knobs and keys, requires the use of acronyms and abbreviations, which can make translation an arduous task if the required context is not provided or is not clear enough. Differences between the source and target languages, such as gender marking, use of pre- or post-modification, words behaving as nouns or verbs, as well as cultural differences, may also pose a number of challenges. However, all these issues can be effectively addressed with expert translators, proficient project managers, and good communications with the client. Yet, there is also another necessary, not to say essential, step: on-site ultrasound UI verification.

UI language validation or verification consists not only of spotting truncated strings and translation errors. As language teams—made up of a specialist and a translator who are native speakers of the target language—explore and test different ultrasound features, they detect software defects, negotiate meaning, discuss the appropriateness and readability of abbreviations, try to bridge linguistic and/or cultural gaps without compromising accuracy, and strive to improve consistency, among other tasks. Language teams also interact with each other to share difficulties and commonalities, and accept of reject changes together with the ultrasound system engineers, who are available to help address any issues.

Personally, being part of a language verification team has been by far one of the most rewarding experiences in my career as a translator. It is hard work but nonetheless challenging and enriching. Traveling to wonderful places, socializing with people from other cultures, and sharing experiences with colleagues and subject-matter experts are some of the great perks that come with this job. And, of course, what could be more satisfying for a linguist than contributing to improving language quality and, ultimately, the end user experience?

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