I Don't Need an Interpreter (Bonus Story)


This is a bonus fourth article in a 3-part series. Interpreters, perhaps you can relate to the situations. Add a comment to share your own examples and takeaways on the theme.

In this series, I’ve shared three stories of times when people thought they didn’t need an interpreter, but they really did. I couldn’t end this series without sharing a final story about a time when the people thought they needed an interpreter but really did not. So, here is the bonus story…

One of our interpreter team member’s infant child needed to be hospitalized. It is a scenario that everyone knows could happen but hopes will not. The infant went from the emergency room and from there was admitted to an in-patient care unit.

Before going through the usual protocols for admitting a patient, the nurse at the in-patient unit said that she would contact an interpreter to come since the family spoke French. (To protect confidentiality, I am not using the actual language.) Our interpreter team member clarified with the nurse that although he and his family did in fact speak French, they did not need an interpreter. He and his family also speak English. He further explained that he was an interpreter himself. The nurse pushed back saying that hospital policy required they provide an interpreter. A brief back-and-forth ensued and the nurse said she would speak with the doctor.

So, the doctor came into the room to assess the situation. He saw who the parent (our interpreter team member) was and immediately recognized him. The doctor then said emphatically to the nurse, “He doesn’t need an interpreter. . . He is an interpreter. He has interpreted for me many times.” And that was that. No interpreter needed.

Takeaways messages:

  1. If the nurse is this diligent about getting an interpreter when one is not needed, imagine how diligent she is when an interpreter is needed. Every nurse should be like that!
  2. As it turns out, not everyone who speaks a different language needs an interpreter.
  3. Interpreters are happy to not be present if they are not needed. But, when they are needed, please do put them to work!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series! Be sure to check out the other articles if you’ve missed them:

  • I Don't Need an Interpreter (Part 1)
  • I Don't Need an Interpreter (Part 2)
  • I Don't Need an Interpreter (Part 3)


©Connecting Cultures Inc. 2018