Declaration this thesis contains no material which has been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma in any university or tertiary institution, and to the best of my knowledge and belief

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This thesis contains no material which has been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma in any university or tertiary institution, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, neither does it contain material previously published or written by another person, except where due acknowledgement is made in the text.


Vũ Thị Thanh Yến

On the completion of this thesis, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to my supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lê Hùng Tiến who gave me benefit of his wisdom and his expert knowledge in translation as well as his constant encouragement from the beginning stage of working out the research proposal to the final stage of writing up the thesis. Without his critical comments and valuable suggestions, this study could not have been completed.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Mrs. Rosemary Nguyen who helped shape the idea for my thesis, giving me her practical guidance, assisting me with data collection and sharing with me her long and varied experience in the translation of health insurance terms in the US health plans.

I take this opportunity to express my sincere thank to all lecturers in Postgraduate Department at College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi for their useful lectures during my M.A course.

Finally, I would also like to thank my parents who have been a constant source of encouragement, support, love and care during the course of my writing.


The need for the translation of US health plans into Vietnamese is a matter-of-fact since there are already a number of American insurer carriers operating in Vietnam, and many more are expected to enter such a potential market of more than 80 million people. However, it is not an easy task at all due to sharp differences in the sub-culture of health insurance between the US and Vietnam.

This thesis titled “A study on the equivalence between English and Vietnamese translation of insurance terms in US health insurance”, therefore, is an attempt to find out the differences and similarities between English HI terms and their Vietnamese equivalents, and to draw out the strategies/procedures/methods that are appropriate to the translation of HI terms in the US health plans into Vietnamese. Hopefully, the research may make a contribution to the translation of HI terms and will be of some help to insurance circle, especially translators with little experience of doing the translation in the field.

To this end, the paper identifies the equivalence relationships and classifies terms according to their structural patterns. More importantly, the research paper focuses on working out strategies/procedures/methods that can be best applied to the translation of terms of equivalence and non-equivalence groups. Suggestions for translation strategies/procedures/methods are also made so that translators may have an idea of what strategies/procedures/methods can be used to deal with certain groups of terms.


1. BH: Bảo hiểm

2. BHYT: Bảo hiểm y tế

3. BHSK: Bảo hiểm sức khoẻ

4. HI: Health insurance

5. SL: Source language

6. TL: Target language



1. Rationale 1

2. Scope of the study 2

3. Aims of the study 2

4. Methods of the study 2

5. Design of the study 3



I. 1.Terminology 4

I.1.1. Definition 4

I.1.2. General features of terminology 4

I.1.3. Term creation 6

I.2. English single words and compounds in comparison

with the Vietnamese ones 7

I.3. Translation theory 7

I.3.1. Definition of translation 7

I.3.2. Translation equivalence 8

I.3.3. Translation methods, strategies and procedures 10

I.3.4. Technical translation 11

I.4. Translation of terminology 11

I.5. Chapter conclusion 13


II.1. An overview of equivalence relationships in the translation of health

insurance terms 14

II.2. Classification of health insurance terms in the US health

insurance plans according to their structural patterns 17 II.2.1. Single terms 17

II.2.2. Compound terms 19

II.3. The common strategies and procedures used in the translation

of health insurance terms of non-equivalence group 19

II.3.1. The translation of single terms – Old words with new senses 23

II.3.2. The translation of compound terms by rank shift or transposition 24

II.3.3. The translation strategy which involves the deletion of “OF” 26

II.4. Concluding remark 26


III.1. The source of non-equivalence problem in the translation

of health insurance terms in the US health plans 28

III.2. The strategies, procedures and methods used in dealing

with non-equivalence problem in the translation of health insurance

terms in the US health plans 29

III.2.1. The translation of terms by transference procedure

(the use of loan words) 30

III.2.2. The translation of terms by paraphrase 32

III.2.3. The translation of terms with communicative method 34

III.2.4. Literal translation 37

III.3. Concluding remarks 38


  1. The terms of equivalence group 39

2. The terms of non-equivalence group 39

3. Suggestion for the methods, procedures and strategies 40

4. Suggestion for further studies 42



  1. Rationale

Since Viet Nam has successfully gained its accession to WTO, and the Bush administration has granted Vietnam with Permanent Normal Trading Status (PNTR), a wide range of actors, including US enterprises, is expected to be here. It is also envisaged that US HI providers will do business in our country, hence a demand for the translation work in the field will be inevitable. The problem lies in the fact that sharp differences in the US HI and the Vietnamese one result in several diffrent HI plans between the two countries. Undoubtedly, this will pose a great obstacle to translators due to their insufficient knowledge about the two different sub-cultures of health insurance. They may have to squeeze their brain to convey the true essence of each kind of health plans from English in Vietnamese.

In the USA, quite a few Vietnamese-American are full time employees in American companies and factories, hence eligible to HI coverage offered by their employers. Annually, the companies and factories have the so-called enrollment for their employees to enroll for health benefits or to choose the health plan that best benefits them. To guarantee that their employees do not end up in wrong decisions, which goes in counter with their benefits due to the failure to understand HI plans written in English, they have them translated by Vietnamese and native American translators.

In Vietnam, though translators do not have to translate such HI plans for clients, they still have to translate a number of presumably popular HI terms, including many in the US HI plans for at least insurance-majored students or for training courses held by some insurance carriers.

Having studied and compared the original and the translated versions by different translators, I have come up with an idea of making an investigation into how HI terms in the US HI plans are currently dealt with. Hopefully, the study, titled “A study on the equivalence between English and Vietnamese translation of insurance terms in US HI plans”, may be of some use to those who have been and will do translation in the field.

2. Scope of the study

Within limited time, resources, conditions, and the length of the thesis, the researcher focuses only on HI terms collected from HI plans. Disability income insurance which is also a sub-type of the US HI is excluded from the study.

Such is the boundary set for my thesis so as to achieve a thorough investigation. Specifically, the study takes into consideration such major aspects as follows:

  • classification of equivalence relationships

  • structural patterns of HI terms in English

  • their translations

3. Aims of the study

  • To work out the similarities and differences between English terms and their Vietnamese equivalents

  • To draw out the strategies/procedures/methods that may apply to the translation of HI terms, especially to the translation of non-equivalence terms in the US HI plans into Vietnamese

4. Methods of the study
4.1. Research questions

a. What are the similarities and differences between English terms and their Vietnamese equivalents?

b. What are strategies/procedures/methods that are appropriate to the translation of HI terms in the US insurance plans?
4.2. Research methods

On the completion of the thesis, the researcher went through the following steps:

  • Building up a theoretical background by reviewing translation and terminology

  • Collecting and grouping English insurance terms in the US insurance plans and their Vietnamese equivalents for description, analysis and induction

  • Drawing out strategies, procedures and methods in the translation of HI terms

The main method is contrastive analysis.
4.3. Data collection

The English HIterms studied are taken from the US insurance health plans and their equivalents are picked out from the translations by native American and Vietnamese-American translators living in the US and those in charge of translation work in Bảo Việt, Pjico, Prudential, and Aoncare which are big insurer carriers in Vietnam.

5. Design of the study

The study consists of three main parts, references and appendices as follows:

  • Part A: Introduction

The rationale for the study, scope, aims, methods and design of the study are orderly presented in this part.

  • Part B: Development

There are three chapters in this part:

Chapter I: Theoretical background

The theory of translation and terminology will be dealt with in this chapter.

Chapter II: The translation of HI terms of equivalence group

This chapter features an investigation into the equivalence between English and Vietnamese translation of HI terms in the US health plans. Accordingly, how HI terms in the US health plans are currently translated and what strategies/procedures/methods are employed are the focus of the research.

Chapter III: The translation of HI terms of non-equivalence group

This chapter examines how non-equivalence problem in the translation of HI terms in the US health plans is solved by available translation strategies, procedures and methods.

  • Part C: Conclusion

The conclusion summaries the strategies, procedures and methods of translation as well as makes relevant suggestions.

The appendixes give more examples of different groups of HI terms.



I. 1.Terminology

I.1.1. Definition

Terminology has been defined variously by many different linguists, either native or Vietnamese. Chau, D.H (1981) claims “Terms are specialists words used within a specific field, a profession or any technological field”. To identify technical term, he states “Scientific and technical terminology consists of lexical units used to denote phenomenal objects, activities …in industrial technologies and natural or social sciences”. Sharing some common features in content with the one by Chau, though put differently, the definition proposed by Giap, N.T (1998) seems to be more informative: “Terminology, understood as a special linguistic unit of language, consists of word and fixed phrase that provides precise definition and objectives that belong to particular scientific area.

Such definitions can serve as a foundation on which we can base our distinction between terms and words. In fact, Baker (1998:261) puts that “Terms differ from words in that they are endowed with a special forms of reference, namely that they refer to discrete conceptual entities, properties, activities or relations which constitute the knowledge space of a particular subject field”. Accordingly, further important differences between terms and words are as follows:

1. Terms have special reference within a particular discipline whereas words function in general reference over a variety of subject fields.

2. Terms keep their lives and meanings only for as long as they serve the system of knowledge they gave rise to them.

In other words, terms together with words and proper names constitute the general class of lexical items. Names refer individually to objects and people; words refer arbitrary boundary between terms and words is not a clear-cut, i.e. many terms become ordinary words when they are used in specialized field.

I.1.2. General features of terminology

Since terminology is not allowed to carry the speaker’ attitude, figurative sense, compliment or criticism, it should possess the following qualities: accurateness, systematicism, internationalism, popularity and nationality as claimed by Giap, N.T (1998) and Lang, L.V (1977). They will be briefly presented in the next part.

I.1.2.1. Accurateness

A term needs to be accurate and clear because basically it reflects an exact concept of a science. If a term is of absolute accuracy, people never mistake one concept for another. Once a word has become a term, it no longer has connotational, emotional meaning; it also loses its polysemousness, synonymousness and antonymousness. In short, terminology necessarily works on the principle that “one concept has only one term for it, and one term indicates only one concept”. This relationship is called the one-to-one equivalent between a concept and a term.

I.1.2.2. Systematicism

Any field of sciences has its own limited system of concepts, which are named by a system of terms. Therefore, each item has its own position in the system of concepts and belongs to a terminological system. As a result, a term loses its value when isolated from system. In short, a term has to be a dependent member of its system.

I.1.2.3. Internationalism

Terms are used internationally because they are special words expressing common scientific concepts to people of different languages. Therefore, it is useful to agree on terms to be used among languages in order to push up the development of science. The international links in science result in a number of terms presented in many different languages. For example, video, radio, telephone…are found in French, German, English and Vietnamese…with little difference in form.

I.1.2.4. Popularity

Terms need to be popular in the sense that they should be close to the language of the masses, which is to say easy-to-remember, easy-to-understand and easy-to-remember, since they will help bring knowledge to and benefit men of all walks of life.

I.1.2.5. Nationality

Though belonging to a particular subject field, terms are still a part of a language system of a nation. They, therefore, possess all the characteristics and colors of a nation language. Put differently, they should be made from the materials of the national language in terms of lexicology, forms and grammar.

I.1.3. Term creation

Since terms are to name concepts, so whenever a concept appears, is made in a culture, or translated to a new culture, it involves the creation of a new term to name it.

I.1.3.1 .Primary and secondary term creation

Primary and secondary terms formation are governed by different influences:

  • Primary term formation occurs when a newly created concept has to be named wile secondary term formation occurs as a result of either (1) the monolingual revision of given terminology, for example, the purpose of producing a standard document, or (2) a transfer of technology to an other linguistic community-a process which requires the creation of new term in the target language.

  • Anther fundamental differences between the two formation methods lies in the fact that in primary term formation, there is no linguistic precedent although there are rules for forming appropriate terms. On the contrary, in secondary term formation, there is always the precedent of an already existing term in another language with its own motivation.

  • Secondary term formation is more often subject to guidelines than primary term formation which are on the basis of patterns terms and words formation already prevalent in the subject field and natural language in question.

(Baker, M: 1998)

I.1.3.2 .Guidance on the creation of terms

  • Terms should consistently reflect some key features of the concepts they are liked to in order to facilitate precise reference. At the same time, they should be as economical as possible without giving rise to homonymy.

  • Terms should be lexically systematic and should conform to the phonological and morphological rules of the language.

  • Terms must conform to the general rules of word-formation of the language or they should allow composition and derivation where appropriate.

  • The meaning of the term should be recognizable independently of any specific context.

Those are advices from International Organization for Standard (ISO 1995) (cited in Bac, N.T, 2003)

I.2.English single words and compounds in comparison with the Vietnamese ones

Single and compound words in Vietnamese have been defined by many established linguists. Châu, Đ.H (1981:40) defines single words as one-morpheme words. He also claims that the majority of Vietnamized single words are monosyllabic. The number of polysyllabic simple words such as bù nhìn (scarecrow), ếch ương (frog), mồ hôi (sweat) is relatively small. According to Cẩn, N.T. (1999: 51), a Vietnamese syllable, in most cases, corresponds to a word, whereas compounds are comprised of at least two words that normally can exist independently and seperately from each other.

Nguyen Hiet Chi and Le Thuoc (1935) defined that ‘Compound words are words with at least two roots; namely, words in their structures, have at least two morphemes which are not affixationals but root morphemes’.

Unlike a Vietnamese single word that is formed by only one morpheme in most normal cases, a single word in English contains at east one morpheme. In fact, a single word in English is defined as a sound or a combination of sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning and may consist of a single morpheme or of a combination of morphemes. (TheFreeDictionary at: - 74k - Jul 13, 2007). For example, the single word ‘need’ has only one morpheme, but ‘inconceivable’ written as a single word has three morphemes: in, meaning ‘not’, conceive meaning ‘think or imagine’, and able meaning ‘able to be, fit to be’. One important feature of morpheme is that some just have grammatical functions such as making plurality (limitations), and tense (insured).

Compound words in English share certain common features with the Vietnamese ones. Take now a definition of compounds as illustration. Jackson and Amvela (2000:70) stated that compounds may be defined as stems consisting of more than one roots. (cited in Hien, T.T.T, 2005).

I.3. Translation theory

I.3.1. Definition of translation

Kelly, L.G-a prominent figure in linguistic circle stated “Without translation, there is no history of the world”. How can it that be? What has he based on to make such a claim? And what is translation that is of great importance as implied by Kelly? In an attempt to find the answer to the last question, I have find myself thrown into confusion by quite a few definitions proposed by different linguists. Follows are some of them:

According to Cartford (1965), translation is “the replacement of a text in one language (SL) by an equivalent text in another language (TL)”. In Bell, R.T (1991:5), the author collected and edited the following definition: “Translation is the expression in another language (or TL) of what has been expressed in another, SL, preserving semantic and stylistic equivalences.” Hatim & Mason (1990:3), however, focus more on the communicative purpose of translation rather than the semantic and stylistic features: “Translation is a communicative process which takes place within a social context”. Newmark (1995:5) simply defines translation as the rendering of a written text into another language in the way the author intended in the text.”

Though put different, these definitions share one common thing, which is to find equivalents that best or appropriately preserve features of the original in terms of semantics, grammatical structures, lexis, cultural context as well as communication situation among other things to be considered.

I.3.2. Translation equivalence

Equivalence has been put in the heart of almost all the theories about translation. Hence, it is understandable that a great attempt has been made by several linguists in defining equivalence or translation in terms of equivalence as Pym (1992, cited in Baker, 1998) who has pointed to its circularity: equivalence is supposed to define translation, in turn, defines equivalence. A close look at different approaches to the question of equivalence will help further illustrate the point:

Newmark (1995: 48) states: “The overriding purpose of any translation should be to achieve ‘equivalent effect, i.e. to produce the same effect (or one as close as possible) on the readership of translation as was obtained on the readership of the original”. According to him, equivalence effect is regarded as the desirable result rather than the aim of any translation except for two cases: (a) If the purpose of the SL text is to affect and the TL translation is to inform or vice versa; (b) If there is a pronounced cultural gap between the SL and the TL text.

In the view of Koller (1979), there are five types of equivalence:

  • Denotative equivalence: the SL and the TL words refer to the same thing in the real world.

  • Connotative equivalence: this type of equivalence provides additional values besides denotative value and is achieved by the translator’s choice of synonymous words or expressions.

  • Text-normative equivalence: The SL and the TL words are used in the same or similar context in their respective languages.

  • Pragmatic equivalence: With readership orientation, the SL and TL words have the same effect on their respective readers.

  • Formal equivalence: This type of equivalence produces an analogy of form in the translation by their exploiting formal possibilities of TL, or creating new forms in TL.

Kade (1968) and other writers on lexical equivalence, in particular in the area of terminology, categorizes equivalence relationships as follows:

  • One-to-one: There is a single expression in the TL for a single expression in the SL.

  • One-to-many: There is more than one expression in the TL for a single SL one.

  • Many-to-one: There is more than one expression in the SL, but there is only a single expression in the TL that is equivalent to them.

  • Many-to-many: There is more than one expression in the SL and they are equivalent to more than one in TL.

  • Whole-to-part/Part-to-whole: A TL expression is only equivalent to part of the concept designated by a single expression in the SL, or the equivalent in the TL has a broader meaning than the concept in the SL.

  • One-to-zero: There is no expression in the TL for a single expression in the SL

The one-to-zero or nil equivalence problem has always been a big obstacle to even experienced translators in every field.
I.3.3. Translation methods, strategies and procedures

Due to time constraint and within the framework of the thesis, we will present only translation methods, procedures and strategies that match the content of the study, or can serve as a firm foundation for the research.

I.3.3.1. Literal translation

It would be useful to study word-for-word translation before having a look at what literal translation is. Word-for-word translation, according to Newmark (1995:69), transfers SL grammar and word order, as well as the primary meanings of all the SL words into the translation.” This translation is supposed to be effective only for brief simple neutral sentence. Literal translation ranges from one word to one word (hall-salle) through group to group (a beautiful garden-un beau jardin), collocation to collocation (make a speech-faire un discour), clause to clause (when that was done-quand cela fut fait) to sentence to sentence (The man is in the street-L’homme e’tait dans la rue).

I.3.3.2. Communicative translation

Communicative translation attempts to render the exact contextual meaning of the original in such a way that both content and language are readily acceptable and comprehensible to the readership. Newmark (1995: 42) claims that in communicative translation, the translator has the right to correct or improve the logic; to replace clumsy with elegant, or at least functional, syntactic structure; to remove obscurities; to eliminate repetition and tautology; to exclude the less likely; to exclude the less likely interpretation of an ambiguity; to modify and clarify jargon, and to normalize bizarreries of idiolect, i.e. wayward uses of language. Further, one has the right to correct mistakes of fact and slips, normally stating what one has done in a footnote.

I.3.3.3. Transference

Transference is the process of transferring a SL word to a TL text, which include loan words, transcriptions. When it comes to the role of a translator with respect to this translation procedure, h/she has to decide whether or not to transfer a word unfamiliar in the TL. Generally, only cultural objects or concept should be transferred to show respect for the SL’s culture. Words and expressions that are normally transferred are: names of all living and most dead people: geographical and topographical names including newly independent countries except for those which already have recognized translation; Name of periodicals and newspapers, titles of untranslated literary works, plays, films, names of private companies and institutions, public or nationalized institutions; street names, addresses, etc.

I.3.3.4. Shifts or transpositions

A ‘shift’ (Catford’s term) or ‘transposition’ (Vinay and Darbelnet) is a translation procedure involving a change in the grammar from SL to TL. Newmark (1995:85) mentions four sub-types of shifts: (1) the change from singular to plural or in the position of the adjective; (2) the change when a SL grammatical structure does not exist in the TL. (3) the change where literal translation is grammatically possible but may not accord with natural usage in the TL; (4) the replacement of a virtual lexical gap by a grammatical structure.

I.3.3.5. Paraphrase

This is an amplification or explanation of the meaning of a segment of the text. According to Baker (1992; 40), the main advantage of the paraphrase is that it achieves a high level of precision in specifying propositional meaning.

I.3.4. Technical translation

Newmark (1995:151), in an attempt to distinguish technical translation from institutional translation, claims that technical translation is one part of specialized translation, potentially non-cultural, therefore, universal.

According to Sofer (1991, cited in Mai, N, 2003), the translation of a text may be called technical when it requires specialized terms in a particular field.

A close look at the two definitions can help identify that though put differently, technical translation is viewed as specialized translation by both two linguists. Newmark (1995: 152) go even further, suggesting that there are three varieties or levels of technical language: (1) academic style associated with academic papers, (2) professional style which refers to formal terms used by experts and (3) the popular one including familiar alternative terms.

I.4. Translation of terminology

I. 4.1. Definition of neologisms

In the view of Newmark (1995:140), neologisms can be defined as newly coined lexical units or existing lexical units that acquire a new sense. Neologisms are perhaps the non-literary and the professional translator’s biggest problem. According to him, since they usually arise first in a response to a particular need, a majority of them have a single meaning and can therefore be translated out of context, but many of them soon acquire new meanings in the target language.

Newmark (1995:141) proposes twelve types of neologism (Old words with new senses; New coinages; Derived words; Abbreviations; Collocations; Eponyms; Phrasal words; Trasferred words; Acronyms; Pseudo-neologisms; and The creation of neologisms) and the way to deal with each but only the ones relevant to the study are presented below:

I. 4.2. The translation of neologisms

I. 4.2.1. Old words with new senses

Old words with new senses, as claimed by Newmark (1995: 141), do not normally refer to new objects and processes, hence non-cultural and non-technical. They are usually translated either by a word that already exists in the TL, or by a brief functional or descriptive terms, say, “HI plans-chương trình BHYT” or “premium-phí BH”.

Existing collocations with new senses may be cultural or non-cultural; if the concept or object exists in the TL, there is usually a recognized translation or through translation. If the concept does not exist or the TL speakers are not aware of it, an economical descriptive equivalent has to be given. ‘Reimbursement account’ proves itself a good an example.

I. 4.2.2. Collocations

Newmark (1995:145-146) claims that new collocations (noun compounds or adjectives plus nouns) are particularly common in social sciences. Collocations or terms in insurance such as ‘co-pay plan’, ‘Medical spending account’, or ‘Deductible plan’ can serve as a good example. These terms represent problems as some of them like ‘Consumer PPO plan’ do not exist in TL. And in such cases, what a translator is expected to do is to transfer them and then add a functional-descriptive term. Otherwise, we might create our own neologisms, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

I. 4.2.3. Acronyms

Acronyms are an increasingly common feature of all non-literary texts and an acronym is defined by Newmark (1995: 200) as “the initial letters of words that form a group of words used (vertiginously) for denoting an object, institution or procedure”. Sometimes, the acronym can be specially coined for the text and can be found there, so it would be a waste of time if one tries to look for it in the numerous reference books. What’s more, there are many cultural reasons why the acronym may or may not be worth transferring (depending on the standard contextual factors as readership, translation prospects…). In science the letters are occasionally joined up and become internationalisms (‘laser’, ‘master’), requiring analysis only for less educated TL readership. In translation, the importance of the acronyms decides on the way they are translated. It can be transferred if they stand for institutions or names of companies. When a political or social organization become important, it is common to transfer its acronym and translate its name. A standard equivalent term, or a descriptive term if the standard does not yet exist.

I.5. Chapter conclusion

This part has fulfilled it task of gathering information about terminology, its general features, and the translation of terminology. The translation theory, especially a variety of relevant translation strategies and procedures have been reviewed so that it can shed light on how HI terms in the US HI plans are currently translated.




II.1. An overview of equivalence relationships in the translation of HI terms

From the collected data we can group equivalence relationships into four categories, excluding the one-to-zero which will be studied in chapter III:

  • one-to-one equivalence

  • one-to-many equivalence

  • many-to-many equivalence

  • many-to-one equivalence

The four following tables present some typical examples of each type:

One-to-one equivalence

Utilization review

đánh giá mức độ sử dụng

Utilization management

quản lý sử dụng


điều khoản loại trừ


tính tái tục


người phụ thuộc

One-to-many equivalence

Group health plan

BHSK theo nhóm

Chương trình sức khỏe chung

Tổ hợp BHYT lớn

Preexisting Condition

Bệnh tật sẵn có

Tình trạng sức khỏe trước khi mua BH


Mức miễn thường

Khoản khấu trừ


Được BH (thiếu/dưới mức/mua với mức thấp)

Many-to-one equivalence

Hospitalization Insurance

Hospital expense coverage

Hospital confinement indemnity

BH chi phí nằm viện

Coordination of benefits

Duplication of benefits

phối kết hợp quyền lợi

(Waiting/elimination/qualifying) period

thời gian chờ đợi

Subscriber / Participant


người tham gia BH

Many-to-many equivalence

Qualified impairment health insurance

Special class health insurance

Substandard health insurance

BH những người tàn tật được công nhận đủ tiêu chuẩn

BH tình trạng suy nhược được chấp nhận

BHSK dưới mức tiêu chuẩn

Impaired risk

Substandard risk

rủi ro dưới mức chuẩn

rủi ro xấu

The variety of equivalence realtionships can be attributed to the following factors:

  1. There is, to a more a lesser extent, some overlapped area between the US and Vietnamese insurance as a result of Vietnam’s insurance adapted from the US one.

  2. The various sources from which the data was collected

1. BlueCross BlueShield at:

2. United Healthcare-Trung Tâm Tài Nguyên at:

3. HIresource center at:

4. SHIBA HelpLine English-Vietnamese Glossary at - Supplemental Result

5. improvement and better insurance at: - Supplemental Result

6. Thuật ngữ BH nhân thọ I-Glosary I at:

7. Vietnam Insurance Training Center

8. Aon-care Vietnam Resource Center

9. Prudential Vietnam Resource Center

Thanks to the overlap mentioned above, happy marriages in terms of HI concepts can be found in some situations, yielding such one-to-one equivalence relationship. What the translator has to do is just an easy job. He finds terms referring to the same concepts that are lexicalized in Vietnamese for the terms in English. It should be noted that such an easy job may be a hard task for those who do not have a background knowledge of HI in the two countries or who have never met the term. Take now the term ‘renewability’. If something is claimed to have the feature of ‘renewability’, that means it can be restarted from the beginning, or it can grow again or is replaced after it has been destroyed or lost, or the time for which it is valid can be extended. Therefore, if it is rendered into Vietnamese as “tính có thể làm mới” or ‘khả năng có thể làm mới’, it seems to be quite reasonable. However, it is not an appropriate equivalent and sounds like an explanation rather than a translation, hence less technical and succinct than ‘tính tái tục’.

Another confusing problem arises when there exist two or more competing terms for the same concept in the Vietnamese version. The one-to-many equivalence relationship serves as a vivid illustration. The translator has to struggle for a smart choice among all the Vietnamese equivalents available to gurantee the comprehensibility of the translated version for a particular readership. Let’s take ‘deductible’-the amount of loss that the insured pays before the insurance kicks in- as an example of the problem. It has two Vietnamese equivalents as “mức miễn thường” and “khoản khấu trừ”. The former is a commonly used term among insurance circle in Vietnam, whereas the latter is used in Vietnamese community in the US. According to a native American experienced translator, if ‘mức miễn thường’ were used in translated versions for the readership there, it would be almost incomprehensible though it is accurate and sounds more professional. Clearly, the readership plays a decisive role in the translator’s choice of equivalents since what is preferred by him may not be understandable to the intended readers.

As far as ‘many-to-one’ equivalence relationship is concerned, it poses no problem to translators in the sense that the context in which the term is used can give the translator a hint to figure out its meaning. And it appears that among more than one terms referring to a same concept in the SL, there must be one which is more widely used than others. The likelihood of encountering a completely new term used to express a common concept, therefore, may be minimized. For example, ‘participant’ (người tham gia BH) is more universally used than ‘subscriber’ and ‘enrollee’, with the latter making sense only in the US sub-culture of insurance.

‘Many-to-many’ equivalence relationship, as implied by its name, refers to the situation in which there are more than one SL expressions which are equal to more than one equivalent in the TL. Though the translator does not have to struggle as hard as he has to do with non-equivalence problem, he still has to put some thoughts into choosing the most comprehensible and appropriate equivalent to specific readership when it comes to a specific situation. For example, ‘impaired risk and ‘substandard risk’ both refer to a situation of a person whose physical condition is less than standard or who has a hazardous occupation or hobby. Each has its own equivalent as ‘rủi ro xấu’ and ‘rủi ro dưới mức tiêu chuẩn’ respectively. The former is highly recommended in the US for Vietnamese-American whose level of education in not high and the latter for the opposite group. In Vietnam, both are used equally. Again, the importance of the readership to the choice of lexical word is undeniable, requiring the translator to firstly characterize the readership of the TL before working on the text.

From scratch, the researcher assumed that there would be more than one equivalence relationships since the data was collected from different sources in Vietnam and in the US where both American-American and Vietnamese American translators work with insurance documents. Expectedly, however, all the translators employ common translation strategies and procedures when dealing with HI terms in the US health plans, which will be studied after we have investigated the structural patterns of these terms.

II.2. Classification of HI terms in the US health insurance plans according to their structural patterns

HI terms are divided into two sub-groups according to their structural features: single terms and compound terms.

II.2.1. Single terms

II.2.1.1. Single terms in the form of a noun

The terms that are nouns (also including those deriving from verbs) can be divided into subgroups as follows:

Sub-insurance terms

A fairly big number of HI terms collected for this study are ordinary words that lose their normal sense and take on the specialist meaning, e.g., the normal sense of ‘policy’ is ‘a set of ideas or plans that is used as basis for making decisions, especially in politics, economics or business’ (chính sách). Its specialist meaning is a document which shows the agreement that you have made with an insurance company (đơn BH). Right below are other examples:

English terms Vietnamese terms


người tham gia/mua BH


điều khoản loại trừ


điều khoản riêng loaị trừ


lời khai của người được BH


điều khoản hạn chế


người tham gia/mua BH

These terms can create difficulties for translators because words commonly met in general English take on a specialized meaning within, say, insurance context. Although the user already knows the general meaning, he may be thrown into confusion when coming across it in a context with a totally different meaning he has never experienced before.

High-insurance terms

It is commonly known that every subject has its set of highly technical terms, which is an intrinsic part of the learning of the discipline itself. Without background knowledge of the field, it would be hard for the user to understand these terms.

Followings are good examples of high-insurance terms:


BH phụ/đồng BH


việc xét nhận rủi ro y tế


đồng trả/cùng trả tiền


thuốc khuyến cáo


sự bồi hoàn

If equipped with little knowledge of both English language and HI in Vietnam and the US, the user will definitely find these terms really hard-to-crack.

II.2.1.2. Single terms in the form of an adjective

Unlike technical terms in the form of a verb, almost all the terms in the form of an adjective do not have their nouns to be used as alternatives


hội đủ điều kiện


thông thường


vừa phải


được đảm bảo



BH dưới mức

không được BH

One important feature of these adjectives is that all of them usually collate with one or two certain nouns to form collocations:

eligible employees/dependents ( người phụ thuộc/nhân viên hội đủ điều kiện)

usual/customary/reasonable fees (phí thông thường/thông dụng/vừa phải )

guaranteed issue (quyền lợi được BH)

uninsured employees (nhân viên không được BH)

We have examined single HI terms that account for significant proportion of the total collected terms.

II.2.2. Compound terms

These are terms which are composed of two words or more; these words, which are of different part of speech, combine and create terms that have the form of nominal group (Halliday’s term).

II.2.2.1. The nominal group

It would be insufficient not to study the experiential structure of the nominal group, so the following section will focus on such a brief investigation.

According to Halliday (1985: 180), the nominal group structure comprises the Thing, commonly called head noun, preceded by various items including Deictic, Numerative, Epithet, Classifier, and followed by Qualifier. The following table will exactly illustrate the structure:














with pantographs

All the items functioning as pre-modifier and post-modifier will be briefly presented in the following table:





The Deictic element indicates whether or not some specific subset of the Thing is intended. It is either (i) specific or (ii) non-specific

  1. This, these, my…

  2. A, each, every…


The Numerative element indicates some numerical feature of the subset : either (i) quantity or (ii) order, either exact or inexact

  1. one, two

  2. first, second, few, little, many


This item, usually in the form of an adjective, indicates some quality of the subset. This can be (i) an objective property of the thing itself; or (ii) it may be an expression of the speaker’s subjective attitude towards it.

  1. old, short, heavy

  2. wonderful, splendid, silly


The Classifier indicates a particular subclass of the thing in question. It can be (i) an adjective or (ii) a noun.

  1. medical insurance

  2. health insurance, drug coverage


The Thing is the semantic core of the nominal group, which may be common noun, proper noun, or personal noun.


The Qualifier element follows the Thing and characterizes it. It can be a relative clause or a prepositional phrase.

The money which is reimbursed to the insured person

As far as Classifier is concerned, it needs more detailed discussion since apart from adjectives and nouns which serve as classifiers; verbs also enter into the nominal group, functioning as Epithet or Classifier in one of the two forms:

(i) present (active) participle, V-ing, e.g. participating, as in participating physician

(ii) past (passive, or intransitive active) participle, V-en, e.g. insured, as in insured employee or covered in covered expense.

When serving as Epithet, these forms usually have the sense of the finite tense to which they are most closely related: the present participle means ‘which is (was/will be)…ing’, the past participle means ‘which has (had/will have) been…ed’.


a prevailing phenomena ( a phenomena which is prevailing)

two satisfied customers (two customers who have been satisfied)

When these forms function as Classifier, they typically have the sense of a simple present, active or passive: present (active) ‘which…s’, past (passive) ‘which…ed’.


qualifying period (period that qualifies))

expected morbidity (morbidity that is expected)

Often the participle itself further modified, as in self-funding employer, pre-existing condition, state-mandated benefits, tax-advantaged account.

Sometimes, the same word may function either as Epithet or as Classifier, with different meaning. Let’s look at ‘fast’ in ‘fast trains’. ‘Fast’ serves as Epithet in the sense that it means ‘trains that go fast’, and functions as Classifier since it classifies a subtype of train, that is ‘express train’.

It is noted that usually several classifiers cluster around a thing to indicate subclasses of more concreteness. Nouns, adjectives, participles, positioned near the Thing, are most common classifiers in English


wellness office visit

classifier(Cs) Cs thing

II.2.2.2. Health insurance terms in the US health plans in the form of the nominal group

A number of high-frequency nominal groups have been found among terms collected for this study.

II. Terms consisting of Classifier (noun) +Thing

As implied by the name, these terms consists of two nouns with the first one functioning as Classifier. It distinguishes the Thing (the second noun) from other concept of the same group. For example, health in ‘health insurance’ (BHSK) helps distinguishes this type of insurance from many other types such as ‘disability insurance’ (BH thương tật), ‘car insurance’ (BH xe ô tô), ‘home insurance’ (BH nhà ở). Other examples of this group:

health exposure (rủi ro về sức khỏe)

network provider (nhà cung cấp thuộc mạng lưới)

fee schedule (giá biểu liệt kê các mức thanh toán tối đa)

indemnity plan (dịch vụ tính tiền)

benefit period (thời kỳ thụ hưởng)

II. Terms consisting of Classifier (adjective) +Thing

A term in this group is formed by an adjective that serves as Classifier and the Thing.


creditable coverage (việc được BH chính đáng)

customary fee (phí thông dụng)

dental coverage (BH răng)

supplemental insurance (chương trình BH phụ/bổ sung)

eligible employees (nhân viên hội đủ điều kiện)

The Classifier, as discussed in (II.2.2.1), can be further modified by another sub-classifier that takes on the form of a noun or an adjective:

basic health plan (chương trình BHSK cơ bản)

group health plan (BHSK theo nhóm)

hospital expense coverage (BH chi phí nằm viện)

prescription drug coverage (BH chi phí theo đơn thuốc)

substandard HI (BHSK dưới mức tiêu chuẩn)

And several classifiers cluster around a Thing to indicate subclasses of more concreteness like the followings:

qualified impairment HI (BH người tàn tật được công nhận đủ tiêu chuẩn)

special class HI (BH tình trạng suy nhược được chấp nhận)

prepaid group practice package (BH trọn gói chi phí y tế tập thể trả trước)

II. Terms consisting of Classifier/Epithet (present participle) +Thing

In this group, some V-ing function as (i) Epithet and some as (ii) Classifier :

  1. If you do not go to

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