METM10 poster presentation

A new multi-language tool for translating dental terms

Marin Vodanovic -” Zagreb, Croatia

Background: Translating dental terms from English to other languages may be a huge challenge for translators, especially in languages with a small number of speakers. Improper translations bring new inappropriate words into these languages by the back door.

Purpose: To present how a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project focused on the development of Croatian dental terminology can have positive effects on upgrading and promoting the Croatian language and at the same time produce a tool that is bi-directional, assisting translation into English.

Solutions and Recommendations: The one-year Croatian Dental Terminology (CDT) project started in 2009, funded by the National Foundation for Science of the Republic of Croatia (NFSRC). The project has a two-pronged aim: 1) to build CDT and 2) to popularize CDT usage. A website with a free online multi-language and multidirectional database of dental terms was established, dental terminology manuals were prepared and terminology workshops were organized. More than 60 doctors of dental medicine from three Croatian universities actively participated in the development of the CDT. In cooperation with the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics, more than 3000 foreign-language dental terms were selected from over 100 books on dentistry and related fields that are used as textbooks in Croatia; the terms were analyzed, translated and adapted for Croatian grammar. English and German terms coming from prosthodontics and orthodontics caused the greatest problems in creating new Croatian terms.

Conclusion: The project evaluation performed by NFSRC showed the feasibility of well prepared, multidisciplinary and precisely targeted projects to improve professional language, preserve the national language from inappropriate translations, and make the professional translation process significantly easier and more accurate. The same principles including multidisciplinary approach and professional support can be used in other contexts and languages.


Marin Vodanovic, PhD, is a doctor of dental medicine and researcher at the University of Zagreb School of Dental Medicine, leader of the Croatian Dental Terminology project, editor in chief of the Bulletin of the International Association for Paleodontology, and web-editor of Acta stomatologica Croatica. Marin has authored the English-German-Croatian Dictionary of Dentistry.