The de­bate on us­ing an in­ter­preter or a trans­la­tor?

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Viewpoints -

In our mul­ti­cul­tural prov­ince, many ser­vice providers will en­counter clients or pa­tients that don’t speak their lan­guage and may have to go through an in­ter­preter to com­mu­ni­cate.

Of­ten this per­son is re­ferred to as a trans­la­tor, but is this ac­cu­rate? Let’s clar­ify these terms. An in­ter­preter trans­lates your words on the spot orally, whereas a trans­la­tor trans­lates words from one lan­guage to an­other, usu­ally in writ­ten form. Si­mul­ta­ne­ous in­ter­pret­ing is when the per­son can see the speaker and is in­ter­pret­ing in real time to an au­di­ence that can’t hear the speaker, usu­ally from in­side a pri­vate booth. Con­sec­u­tive in­ter­pret­ing is also done in the pres­ence of the speaker, usu­ally side by side, where they take turns speak­ing. This con­sec­u­tive in­ter­pret­ing is what we, as Com­mu­nity Health Reps with AHS, do a lot of on a daily ba­sis.

Gen­er­ally a physi­cian will speak to the client and then we in­ter­pret what has been said to the client; then when the client re­sponds, we in­ter­pret their re­sponse back to the physi­cian. This back and forth takes pa­tience and trust be­tween all par­ties and can save a lot of frus­tra­tion, con­fu­sion, and even some­times, save lives.

When pre­par­ing a speech or pre­par­ing to de­liver in­for­ma­tion where you will use an in­ter­preter, keep in mind that this will take longer and cut­ting your con­tent to the most nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion is key. Also to con­sider is that jokes or sto­ries, might not be easy to in­ter­pret as not only can the ter­mi­nol­ogy in their lan­guage be lack­ing, but also the con­cept could be for­eign and the punch line might not make sense! That be­ing said, once re­la­tion­ships have been built, a sim­ple joke to put ev­ery­one at ease can be very ap­pro­pri­ate.

When­ever pos­si­ble, brief your in­ter­preter be­fore you be­gin your con­ver­sa­tion with the client. This way the in­ter­preter can ask for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on any in­dus­try spe­cific or spe­cial­ized terms be­fore­hand. When writ­ten ma­te­rial is avail­able be­fore­hand, pro­vide the in­ter­preter with a copy as well so he/she can fol­low along and noth­ing is missed. How fa­mil­iar the in­ter­preter is with the topic of dis­cus­sion can make a big dif­fer­ence in how well the in­ter­pre­ta­tion will go.

When you are talk­ing, face the per­son or au­di­ence to whom you are de­liv­er­ing your mes­sage and have your in­ter­preter ei­ther be­side you or be­side the client(s). Speak to your client as though you speak the same lan­guage rather than ask­ing the in­ter­preter to speak on your be­half. This helps to build re­la­tion­ship and pre­pares your client for that day when they have learned enough of your lan­guage to com­mu­ni­cate on their own. Some may un­der­stand enough to an­swer ba­sic ques­tions and if asked di­rectly, this en­cour­ages clients to re­spond on their own and build on their lan­guage skills, con­fi­dence, and sense of value.

For our Low Ger­man Men­non­ite fam­i­lies, mak­ing eye con­tact can be in­tim­i­dat­ing, but as a ser­vice provider mak­ing eye con­tact can again help build that re­la­tion­ship.

At a re­cent client ap­point­ment the ser­vice provider, upon hear­ing that there was an in­ter­preter present be­cause the client didn’t speak English, be­gan to speak very loudly and em­phat­i­cally to the client. Try not to do this. Talk to your client as though they can un­der­stand you, keep­ing your tone nor­mal and still us­ing ges­tures. Also keep in mind that when some­body can’t speak your lan­guage, this doesn’t mean they can’t read your body lan­guage. A smile goes a long way in set­ting some­one at ease and in the same way, a frown or neg­a­tive body lan­guage can cause some­one to feel out of place.

When­ever we go to a coun­try where our lan­guage isn’t spo­ken and we strug­gle to un­der­stand, it helps when the na­tives speak in sim­ple, clear, low-level lan­guage with­out us­ing slang or metaphors that we wouldn’t get in a mil­lion years! So this is def­i­nitely im­por­tant to keep in mind even if work­ing with an in­ter­preter.

For ex­am­ple, you could ask if some­one feels like they will throw up in­stead of ask­ing if they feel nau­seous. Or ‘do you need help’ in­stead of ‘are you in need of as­sis­tance.’ Speak slower than usual and pause af­ter a few sen­tences or one thought so that the in­ter­preter can re­mem­ber all that was said.

The in­ter­preter needs to be able to con­vey all of the in­for­ma­tion in a way that makes sense to the client, this can mean ex­plain­ing con­cepts or de­scrib­ing some­thing that there aren’t words for in the client’s lan­guage. So if the in­ter­preter takes longer to re­lay what you have just said, this could be be­cause there wasn’t the same ter­mi­nol­ogy in the lan­guage be­ing spo­ken and in­stead it has to be de­scribed or ex­plained in greater de­tail.

As in­ter­preters, we have to hear a mes­sage in one lan­guage and re­ar­range the con­tent and re­lay it in an­other lan­guage while still mak­ing sense. If you see your in­ter­preter look­ing off into the cor­ner or look­ing a mil­lion miles away, this is likely be­cause he/she is hear­ing in one lan­guage and pro­cess­ing in an­other and this can take con­cen­tra­tion! Sen­tence struc­ture, con­cepts, in­flec­tions, and sit­u­a­tion all play into the in­ter­pre­ta­tion qual­ity.

Thank you for tak­ing the time to read this ar­ti­cle and for car­ing enough about your clients to have an in­ter­preter present to help them un­der­stand fully. Any­one that has ever been in a sit­u­a­tion where they didn’t un­der­stand what was be­ing said or couldn’t com­mu­ni­cate their own needs or wants, knows how valu­able it is to have some­one take the time to help them un­der­stand.

We’d also like to thank all those that have en­listed our help and have demon­strated pa­tience and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for our time and ef­forts. As men­tioned ear­lier, body lan­guage is felt in any sit­u­a­tion no mat­ter the lan­guage spo­ken and when one feels wanted and ap­pre­ci­ated, the ex­pe­ri­ence is so much bet­ter for the client, ser­vice provider, and in­ter­preter!

Tina Field­ing is a Com­mu­nity Health Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and works with Pop­u­la­tion Health Pro­mo­tion with Al­berta Health Ser­vices as an in­ter­preter. She can be reached at tina.field­ or 403-388-6671. Some info taken from­vanced eti­­ing-an­in­ter­preter/


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