Interpreters frequently express struggles with trying to get healthcare providers to use their services.. Many times the struggles are expressed only from the point of view of the interpreter. Very infrequently, is the perspective of the healthcare provider considered.
Have you ever wished for a particular superpower to help you better handle interpreting encounters? I know I have. It might seem silly to daydream about having superpowers, but doing so can help to uncover superpower alternatives that are realistic and produce the desired outcome — even if it does take a bit more effort. Here are my top four.
I find myself observing situations in which individuals are eager to “try out” their foreign language skills at medical appointments. Sometimes this means patients fumbling through broken English. Sometimes this means medical staff fumbling through broken Spanish. Often the result is a varying degree of uncertainty on the part of the listener.
There's more to communicating across cultures than finding a shared language (or interpreter). It is also necessary to develop skills and strategies that allow you to communicate effectively across cultures. Who knew time at a great conference and ordering a glass of water could be so insightful?
When I was new to interpreting, I would often find myself listening to the patient’s symptoms and making determinations (to myself, of course) as to what the diagnosis was. Not surprisingly, my diagnoses were frequently wrong, and so I came to realize that while I might know a lot of medical terms and concepts, I had no business trying to apply that knowledge beyond the accurate conversion of messages between languages.