What Kind of Pain Do You Feel? (Chinese-English Medical Interpretation)

One of the big questions during medical appointments is the patient’s feeling of discomfort and pain. Below is a quick guide to the different types of pains that may come up during a medical interview, along with their Chinese translations. Hope you’ll find this helpful.

Type of Pain Symptoms Chinese Translation
Ache Continuous pain. 痛(tong) , 疼(téng), or疼痛 (téng tong)
Band-Like Pain A squeezing type of pain. 擠壓痛 (jǐ yā tòng)
Burning, searing Pain that feels like it was caused by heat or fire. 灼痛 (zhuó tòng) or燒灼感 (shāo zhuó gǎn, a burning sensation)
Cramps (menstrual) Menstrual pain. 經痛 (jīng tòng)
Cramping, grabbing pain Spasmodic muscular contraction. Quick pain that feels like spasms or a sudden snatch 绞痛 (jiǎo tong) or 痙攣 (jìng luán)
Cold Pain Pain that comes with cold sensations. Often seen around the lower back, abdomen, and joints. 冷痛 (lěng tong)
Dull pain Pain that exists persistently but without much intensity. Pain that’s bearable. 鈍痛 (dùn tòng), 悶痛 (mēn tòng), or 隱痛 (yǐn tòng)
Heavy Pain Pain with a feeling of being weighted down. Often seen in the head and limbs. 重痛 (zhòng tòng)
Moving pain A pain that moves continually to different body parts. 走窜痛 (zǒu chuàn tòng)
Needle-like A pain as if from being punctured with a needle. 刺痛 (cì tòng)
Pressing pain Feeling as if there’s a weight pushing against part of the body. 壓痛 (yā tòng)
Sharp pain Cutting or penetrating pain by a sharp or pointing instrument. 尖痛 (jiān tòng), 劇痛 (jù tòng)
Shooting, stabbing pain Intermittent flash of pain. 閃痛 (shǎn tong)
Splitting pain Sensation of being ripped apart. 撕裂痛 (sī liè tòng) or 撕裂般疼痛 (sī liè bān de  tòng)
Tingling pain Feelings of numbness as if being pricked by multiple needles. 麻刺痛 (má cì tòng)

What other types of pain have you encountered, or do you think I missed? Please share.

Happy interpreting!

Don’t Be A Choosy Language Learner

Translation is always in the back of my mind, so I’m always thinking: How would I say this in Chinese? or How would I say this in English? And sometimes the strangest things strike my interest. This time, they’re the phrases in an article on balding and hair loss.

Language is ever-changing, and a good linguist–translator or interpreter–always finds ways to expand her vocabulary. There are topics or occurrences in our daily lives that we don’t always think are important enough to further explore, when actually, anything can be a learning experience. Don’t discriminate against odd subjects!

Okay, so let’s get into the hair loss/ baldness vocabulary from the article I read on udn.com, a Taiwanese online news source.

Language Learning Odd Topics

  1. 頭髮 (tóufa)- hair (on the head). 頭: head; 髮: hair (on the head).
  2. 髮線 (fàxiàn)- hairline. 髮: hair (on the head). 線: line.
  3. 禿頭 tūtóu- baldness.
  4. 雄性禿 xióngxìng tū- male pattern baldness. 雄性: male. 禿: bald(ness).
  5. 額髮線後退 (é fàxiàn hòutuì)- receding hairline. 額: forehead. 額髮線: forelock. 後退: to go back.
  6. 促進生髮的藥物 (cùjìn shēngfà de yàowù)- medication that promotes hair growth. 促進: promote. 生: grow. 髮: hair. 藥物: drug, medicine.
  7. 電燈泡 (diàndēngpào) 電火球仔 dian hui chu ah>- lightbulb. Used to describe a completely bald head. Note: Another usage for 電燈泡 (diàndēngpào) is what American English terms “third wheel.”
  8. 植髮中心 (zhífà zhōngxīn)- center for hair transplants. 植: to plant. 髮: hair. 中心: center.
  9. 急性休止期落髮 (jíxìng xiūzhǐqī luòfà)- acute telogen effluvium. Hair loss caused by illnesses. 急性: acute.
  10. 圓禿 (yuántū) or 鬼剃頭 (guǐtìtóu)- alopecia areata, also known as spot baldness. 圓: round, circle. 禿: baldness. 鬼: ghost. 剃頭: to shave one’s head. 鬼剃頭 is the colloquial usage.
  11. 假髮 (jiǎfà)- wig. 假: fake; 髮: hair.
  12. 生髮水 (shēngfàshuǐ)- hair regrowth tonic. 生: grow. 髮: hair. 水: water, solution.

Side note, have you heard that washing your hair every day isn’t good for you and may lead to hair loss? That actually isn’t always the case. We should actually wash our hair and scalp regularly to avoid clogged hair follicles, which can lead to more hair loss.

Hope you learned something today!

Literature in Translation: Prostate-Specific Antigen

The Key Number: PSA ≦ 6.5

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) is a type of protein produced by the prostate gland. Its levels increase with age, and the normal rates are 3.5 for those under age 59.; 4.5 for those between ages 60 to 69; and 6.5 for those between ages 70 to 79.

High PSA levels could be a sign of prostatitis (infection of the prostate) or benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate). In some, it may even be a marker for prostate cancer. However, diagnosis of prostate cancer is usually determined by digital rectal exams and ultrasounds of the rectum and prostate.

If the possibilities of prostate cancer cannot be ruled out, a biopsy would be done for pathological diagnosis. Patients who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer can use PSA to assess and track their response to therapy.


  1. 攝護腺 (shè hù xiàn) or 前列腺 (qián liè xiàn)- Prostate gland.
  2. 攝護腺炎 (shè hù xiàn yán)-Prostatitis, or infection of the prostate. 炎: infection.
  3. 攝護腺特異抗原 (shèhùxiàn tèyì kàngyuán)- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA). 攝護腺: prostate gland. 特異: distinct, peculiar, specific. 抗原: Antigen.
  4. 數值 (shù zhí)-Number, level, score.
  5. 良性攝護腺肥大 (liángxìng shèhùxiàn féidà)- Benign prostatic hyperplasia. 良性: positive, good, benign (tumor). 攝護腺: prostate gland. 肥大: swelling, hypertrophy.
  6. 標記 (biāo jì)- Marker.
  7. 排除(pái chú)- To rule out.
  8. 直腸指診 (zhí cháng zhǐ zhěn)or 肛診 (gāng zhěn- Digital rectal exam. 直腸: rectum. 指: finger. 診: exam. 肛: anus.
  9. 切片檢查(qiē piàn jiǎn chá)- biopsy. 切片: slice. 檢查: examination.
  10. 效果(xiào guǒ)-Results, effect.
  11. 超音波 (chāo yīn bō)-Ultrasound. 超: ultra, super. 音: sound. 波: waves.
  12. 確診 (què zhěn)- To make a definite diagnosis.

*Original article “PSA ≦ 6.5” from 聯合報D2。Date: 中華民國一〇〇年十一月十六日。

English-Chinese Vocabulary Builder: Oral Surgery

I recently had to go to an oral surgeon as a patient. During the process, I took note of the medical terms that were used and mentally translated them to distract myself. Here’s a brief list for your reference.

  1. Oral surgery- 口腔外科手術 (kǒu ​qiāng wài ​kē​ shǒu ​shù)
  2. Consent form- 同意書 (tóng ​yì shū)
  3. Local anesthetic-局部麻醉 (jú​ bù​ má ​zuì)
  4. General anesthetic- 全身麻醉 (quán ​shēn ​má ​zuì)
  5. Wisdom teeth- 智齒 (zhì ​chǐ)
  6. Premolar- 前臼齒 (qián ​jiù ​chǐ)
  7. Diet- 飲食 (yǐn ​shí)
  8. Soft foods- 軟質食物 (ruǎn zhí shí​ wù)
  9. Pain- 疼痛 (téng ​tòng)
  10. Swelling- 腫脹 (zhǒng ​zhàng)
  11. Salt water- 鹽水(yán ​shuǐ)
  12. Bruising- 瘀傷 (yū​ shāng)/烏青 (wū ​qīng)
  13. Soreness- 酸痛 (suān tòng)
  14. Blood- 血 (xiě)
  15. Spit- 吐  (tǔ)
  16. Swallow- 吞嚥 (tūn yàn)
  17. Anesthetic-麻藥 (má ​yào)
  18. Numbness- 麻痺 (má ​bì)
  19. Teeth extraction- 拔牙 (bá ​yá)
  20. Gauze- 紗布 (shā ​bù)

Happy translating!

Code of Ethics for Medical Interpreters

Interpreting is not just about conveying a message from the source language to the target language, it also involves following codes established by the profession. There are different sets of ethics code provided by different interpreting groups, but they are generally similar. Below is a summary of the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare’s (NSIHC) code of ethics, which can also be found on their website http://www.ncihc.org.

What are ethics? Ethics is a set of principles or values that govern the conduct of members of a profession. It provides guidelines for making judgments about what is acceptable and recommended behavior.

The code of ethics is based on three core values: beneficence, fidelity, and respect for importance of cultures and cultural difference.

     Beneficence. In healthcare interpreting, the patient’s (and his or her family’s) health and well-being is our goal. This goal is shared by the healthcare team, the patient, as well as the interpreter. We all want the patient to get better.

     Fidelity. It is our obligation as interpreter to stay loyal and faithful to the original message conveyed by the patient and the practitioner. When rendering the messages into the target language, our aim is to interpret everything that is said, without distorting the message by making additions or omissions.

     Respect for importance of cultures and cultural difference. Cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. It is important that interpreters are knowledgeable about the culture of the source and target language.

The nine code of ethics in NISCH are:

     1. Confidentiality. Interpreters need to treat all information during an encounter confidential within the treating team, which includes all professionals within one treatment facility who provide medical care to the patient.

     2. Accuracy and Completeness within Cultural Frameworks. Interpreters need to deliver the complete package. In other words, they should strive to render the message accurately by conveying not only the meaning of the message, but also the spirit (emotion, tone, and gestures) that came with the message, taking into account the message’s cultural context. Interpreters must not omit from, add to, or distort the speaker’s message; even offensive remarks and gestures, body language, and tone of voice must be interpreted. Interpreting does not mean rendering each word, but rendering the meaning of the message.

     3. Impartiality. Maintaining good customer service to both patient and provider is important for a successful professional relationship. An interpreter is simply a conduit, so interpreters should refrain from counseling, advising, or projecting personal biases or beliefs. They should also avoid judging the content of the message of the parties in the interaction; they should keep their values to themselves. Because one’s tone of voice, inflection, and facial expressions can show bias without one’s knowledge, interpreters should take note of their own voices and make sure they are putting emphasis only on words that were emphasized on in the original message.

An interpreter should avoid potential conflicts of interests is at all possible. Interpreting for family members, for example, is highly discouraged as the interpreter may unintentionally show his or her bias opinions, which can interrupt the medical interview.

     4. Professional Boundaries. Developing professional rapport with a patient is acceptable and encouraged  but interpreters should try to avoid personal involvement with their clients, such as building friendships with clients. Interpreters should also avoid taking on other roles while they are interpreting to avoid potential conflicts of interest. For example, an interpreter who is also a nurse should not provide medical recommendations while with the patient; in a situation like this, an interpreter should only focus on acting as a conduit and not as a medical professional.

     5. Cultural Competence. Culture is a central factor in all communication and the understanding of culture is necessary for accurate interpretations. While interpreters are not expected to possess expertise in all cultural nuances, they should strive to continually develop awareness cultural competence in the target and source language cultures, including biomedical cultures.

     6. Trust and Respect. Treat all parties with respect, using proper greetings and titles applicable to specific cultures. Interpreters should also respect the autonomy and expertise of all parties in an encounter.

     7. Advocacy. Advocacy is understood as action taken on behalf of an individual that goes beyond the facilitation of communication, with the intention of supporting good health outcomes. When a patient’s health, well-being, or dignity is at risk, the interpreter may be justified to act as an advocate. Advocating actions should be undertaken only after careful and thoughtful analysis of the situation, and only when other less intrusive actions have not resolved the problem.

     8. Professional Development. Language acquisition and maintenance is a continual process. Just because an interpreter has a lot of experience doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn. Interpreters should strive to continually further their knowledge in the field/subject matters, language skills, and interpreting skills. They should also strive to further understand the socio-cultural context of the population they serve. Interpreters should also serve as mentors to help those in the same field and participate in professional activities that contribute to the development of the profession.

     9. Professionalism. A good interpreter acts professionally. This includes but is not limited to:
– disclosing skill limitations
– preparing for all assignments and arriving on time
– monitoring his or her own performance and behavior
– does not in any way exploit the vulnerability of the patient (for example, doesn’t accept gifts from patients)

Other code of ethics for medical interpreters can be found:
IMIA Code of Ethics- imiaweb.org
Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) – http://www.healthcareinterpretercertification.org/

Heartland Alliance Cross-Cultural Interpreters training 10/8/2011
NCIHC Code of Ethics http://www.ncihc.org