Japan’s first full-scale medical translation course will start in May at translation colleges run by Inter Group Co. to produce trained interpreters for hospitals.

Yearlong courses in medical translation between Japanese and English will be held at five branches of Inter Group, known as Inter Schools, for a total of 104 students in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

The courses will be supervised by Rinku General Medical Center in Osaka, which opened an international clinic in 2006 where foreign patients can request medical consultations in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Inter Group spokesman Akihiro Iseki said this will be the first time a school will team up with a hospital to provide a training course in medical translation.

“Translating in hospitals is usually done by volunteers, friends of the patient, linguists or translators interested in medical treatment of foreigners. This means they are not consistent and the quality is low,” Iseki said. “Until now, the only courses that existed were shorter, more informal sessions at the local level.”

Students will receive weekly training in basic translation techniques and medical terminology, as well as practice through role-playing.

They will get lessons on anatomy and physiology from doctors using video footage, and learn about the health insurance system and medical laws.

There is no formal system to provide translators even though the number of foreign residents in Japan is increasing. The only government support for interpreters comes in the form of travel subsidies provided by some municipalities, according to Iseki.

This means that even when students complete the course, there is no system to be employed by hospitals. But Iseki stressed that students should think of the long-term benefits.

“I think the situation will change in the future, and meanwhile some companies employ translators to accompany foreign employees on hospital trips. Medical translation is an invaluable skill to have for any translator or any medical professional,” he said, adding that the school has plans to offer the course in other languages, including Chinese.

The required standard for the courses is a score of 730 on the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). Tuition will be ¥315,000. Sample lessons are being held through March and April at the five branches.

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