Interpreting with family members in the room
Thread poster: Sara Senft

Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 17, 2008

Last week, I had a medical interpreting assignment. It wasn't just me, the patient and the doctor in the room. The patient also had his daughter with him and sometimes interpreted--instead of me!

How do you handle a situation like this in a professional yet culturally sensitive way?


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:00
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Some tips (what I would do) Oct 17, 2008

-Stand to the side and a little behind the patient, never between the patient and the physician.

-Whenever the relative intervenes, stare at the doctor, keep silent until the relative finishes and then render your interpretation. The doctor will eventually get the message and, hopefully, so will do the relative. Leave it up to the physician to handle the consultation.

Do not forget: as an interpreter, you are a "transparent and invisible" being. Your job is to provide a voice to the parties involved. You are not supposed to interact in any other way. Think of yourself as a "non-person"; always refer to yourself in the third person singular: "The interpreter requests...", "The interpreter would like..." (Watch the doctor raise her eyebrows. They are not used to that.)

Nothing prevents you from recusing yourself. If it really upsets you, say that the interpreter would like to speak in private to the physician, explain the situation and leave or stay depending on the outcome. If you leave, be sure to tell your agency that the conditions were inadequate, that you requested the physician's support but did not get it, and that you felt you were not able to perform in a professional manner.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:00
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
WOW! Oct 17, 2008

Luisa, this is great advice! Perfect and honest.

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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:00
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Good teachers Oct 17, 2008

Thank you, Tomás. I had excellent teachers.

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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 16:00
Italian to Danish
+ ...
You must have had! Oct 18, 2008

I am not an interpreter. But I was impressed by your very professional reply to the question!

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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 06:00
English to Russian
+ ...
Excellent advice from Luisa Oct 19, 2008

Sara, your questions are always interesting!

Luisa - I'll follow you advice to the letter next time it happens to me (it does, even though not too often).

Sara, the only thing I can add to Luisa's advice is this: when you are interpreting for a living, you have to learn to stay calm in any situation and not to take anything personally.

You will have relatives interpreting for the patient. You will have people challenging your interpretation. You will occasionally run across people who are arrogant enough to say that they don't need an interpreter, even though their English is obviously poor. And I don't even want to mention doctors who address a patient as "he" - we have talked enough about it already.

The first and foremost: whatever happens, stay calm. Best luck to you.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:00
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Just a short note Oct 21, 2008

I agree with everything Luisa wrote, with one exception:

the conversation is two-way between the doctor and the patient (forget the relative); therefore you have to stand in a somewhat triangular position between them, because both of them have to see your face when you are speaking their language. This is not a chuchotage situation, and the interpreter is there to pass on the spoken words equally to both parties.

Subconscious "lip reading" helps people to understand speech better, and the patient may need this help more than the doctor. If you were "a little behind" the patient, he would not be able to see you without turning around, when you interpret the doctor's words to him.


[Edited at 2008-10-21 23:47]


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:00
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
In total disagreement Oct 22, 2008

Juvenal, you will not find one professional certified interpreter that agrees that the position for this environment should be triangular. It disturbs the situation. This type of interpretation is not a conference, it is not a deposition. The positioning is the interpreter to the side and slightly behind the patient. Just enunciate properly, there is no need for the patient to lip read.

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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:00
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Juvenal? Sorry, that was a long time ago... Oct 22, 2008

Luisa Ramos wrote:
Juvenal, you will not find one professional certified interpreter that agrees that the position for this environment should be triangular. It disturbs the situation. This type of interpretation is not a conference, it is not a deposition. The positioning is the interpreter to the side and slightly behind the patient. Just enunciate properly, there is no need for the patient to lip read.


Precisely, because this type of interpretation is not a conference or deposition, but an exchange of questions and answers between two parties, the positioning of the interpreter should not reflect an interrogation type situation.

Lets's see some other opinion:

• Establish sitting arrangements. Stansfield (1980) recommends that the clinician and the interpreter sit next to each other with the interpreter sitting slightly behind the clinician. According to Stansfield, this sitting arrangement allows the clients to see both the interpreter and the clinician; the client can look at both the clinician and the interpreter to receive verbal and nonverbal messages from both; and the clinician will be in a position of facing and directly talking to the client.
http://www.nasponline.org/resources/culturalcompetence/recommend.pdf

· Arrange the seating to allow for easy communication: in a circle or triangle or place the interpreter to the side and just behind you.
www.health.qld.gov.au/multicultural/health_workers/work_interp.pdf

In court:
The court interpreter shall be positioned in full view of the specially situated to assure proper communication, but shall no obstruct the view of the judge, jury or counsel. The interpreter shall always be positioned so that the non-English speaker can hear or see everything the court interpreter says or signs and so that the interpreter can hear or see everything that is said or signed during the proceedings.
www.mass.gov/courts/admin/planning/codeofconduct.html

The most thorough and objective information on the subject is to be found here:
http://data.memberclicks.com/site/ncihc/NCIHC%20Working%20Paper%20-%20Guide%20to%20Interpreter%20Positioning%20in%20Health%20Care%20Settings.pdf

juvera
(a professional, certified interpreter with nearly 20 years of interpreting experience)


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