Migrants urged not to use relatives as interpreters in hospital

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Reed James
Chile
Local time: 18:46
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Being bilingual and being able to interpret are two different animals Sep 8, 2015

I wholeheartedly agree with this article. Since I'm involved in the language industry, albeit in the written form, the facts set out in the article above are painfully obvious. It may be that a person can speak two languages very well, but knowing the equivalences, specialized terminology and the rules of the game belong to a professional-either trained or self-trained.

Especially medical terminology is tricky and needs to be used by someone who understands anatomy as well as medical procedures and devices. If you're just guessing and exchanging terms from one language with possible matches in another, it only follows that you could make a big mess of it.


 

Danik 2014
Brazil
German to Portuguese
+ ...
The financial issue Sep 8, 2015

The article may be right but migrants very often don´t have enough money. If they have they sometimes have to save it for other expenses as they don´t know what kind of situations they are going to encounter.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Vapourware DVD Sep 9, 2015

The DVD is called "Working with Interpreters in the Healthcare Setting" and was produced by NSW's Health Care Interpreting and Translating Services. I'm not sure what they hope to achieve with a DVD, though. Unless the DVD is terribly exciting or entertaining, hardly anyone that it is aimed at will buy it, I think. It's not on YouTube either.

 

Silvia Di Profio  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:46
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
Refugee Phrasebook Sep 10, 2015

Interesting point of view.
I barge into the conversation just to bring a project to the attention of all colleagues. A volunteer group based in Berlin are launching a "Refugee phrasebook" to cope with the refugees emergency. It aims to be a first form of linguistic assistance and consists of a collection of "a multilingual tool that provides basic useful vocabulary related to the most common immediate needs".
Here the website: http://www.refugeephrasebook.de/
And here a streaming workshop for whoever is interested (and skilled) to help complete the phrasebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1634387796841946/
There is also a medical section and that's why I'm posting it here.
All of you are welcome, if interested.


 

TechStyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:46
Bad translation v no translation Sep 10, 2015

Danik 2014 wrote:

The article may be right but migrants very often don´t have enough money. If they have they sometimes have to save it for other expenses as they don´t know what kind of situations they are going to encounter.


Yes, a bad translation could be worse than no translation at all - so of course a technical term like "diabetes" or "epilepsy" could cause serious problems. However, a basic translator who knows their limits would be better than nothing, I think: "he has a sore foot", "he's been sick", "he can't see clearly, everything is blurred"...

I read a story a few days ago about a doctor in the USA treating a Spanish-speaking man who complained of feeling "intoxicado" - there seem to be multiple versions of the story going around now, but the essence is that he was admitted feeling ill, misattributed to drink or drugs because of that word until it was too late and he was quadriplegic, since they'd missed the brain haemorrhage which was actually making him feel "intoxicado".

One article on the subject also mentioned the pitfalls in the word "embarazada", and that a female patient who protests about an X-ray or other treatment using that word is not just embarrassed about it!

The real lesson, I think, is to be careful both sides actually understand each other, even without a foreign language involved. My sister in law had a patient a few years ago who, asked if he'd had any operations, said "yes, I had my bladder removed" - that would be extremely unusual, of course, and require a permanent catheter and other arrangements; in fact, it had been his gall bladder, a fairly routine procedure called a cholecystectomy, but the patient didn't know the correct terms even in his own native language.

The phrasebook Sylvia linked to looks like a very useful tool for this, and I hope it helps people - Sylvia, it's not mentioned in the list of problem languages at the top, but I see the Hindi column of the health phrasebook is blank at the moment, does it still need contributions? (My grandfather spoke it in India for a while and did some translation work - and I'd make him promise not to translate अतिसार as 'constipation' this time, knowing it means exactly the opposite...)


 

Silvia Di Profio  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:46
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
@James Sep 10, 2015

James Sutherland wrote:

The phrasebook Sylvia linked to looks like a very useful tool for this, and I hope it helps people - Sylvia, it's not mentioned in the list of problem languages at the top, but I see the Hindi column of the health phrasebook is blank at the moment, does it still need contributions? (My grandfather spoke it in India for a while and did some translation work - and I'd make him promise not to translate अतिसार as 'constipation' this time, knowing it means exactly the opposite...)


Hello James,
I'm afraid I can't answer to your question. Yes, Hindi column is empty, yet, but a message in the top right of the document says other languages are needed. I have read about the project just today and joined the FB group (even if they need migrants source languages into Europe target languages and my pair is unlikely useful). However, you can contact info@refugeephrasebook.de for further informations. Maybe they simply forgot to mention it.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
On using clear language Sep 10, 2015

Silvia Di Profio wrote:
A volunteer group based in Berlin are launching a "Refugee phrasebook" to cope with the refugees emergency.


As I look over the phrases in the phrase book, it strikes me how unclear everyday medical language can be, particularly if the speaker chooses to use euphemisms or idiomatic expressions instead of clear language. In fact, I'll wager most people who use such euphemisms don't ever realise that they're using euphemisms. For example, "I need to see a doctor" really means "I need medical assistance from a doctor (simply seeing him isn't sufficient)". What's more, the role of "a doctor" is different in different cultures (presumably the phrase book's expression refers to a primary care physician, but who knows... it may also refer to a general practitioner). Or, "where can I fill this prescription" really means "where can I buy/get prescription medicine". It has nothing to do with getting a refill. Or, to be "admitted" to a hospital really means to be checked in for overnight stay at a hospital. The English expression doesn't really mean to be granted permission to access the hospital, as it would seem to imply if you're not aware of the real meaning of the idiomatic expression "to be admitted" to a hospital.

James Sutherland wrote:
Danik 2014 wrote:
The article may be right but migrants very often don´t have enough money. If they have they sometimes have to save it for other expenses as they don´t know what kind of situations they are going to encounter.

Yes, a bad translation could be worse than no translation at all - so of course a technical term like "diabetes" or "epilepsy" could cause serious problems. However, a basic translator who knows their limits would be better than nothing, I think: "he has a sore foot", "he's been sick", "he can't see clearly, everything is blurred"...


Yes, instead of telling doctors not to use non-professional interpreters, rather educate doctors about the issues that can lead to incorrect interpreting by friends and family members, and train them to ask the right questions (and be satisfied only with the right answers).

I would have hoped that professional medical interpreters would know how to deal with inaccurate responses from their clients, but the example videos about this on e.g. Youtube don't paint a pretty picture. For example, I see a lot of medical interpreters who assume that the client knows that the interpreter is a neutral party in the conversation, but clients in these situations often regard the interpreter as an expert communicator, and so they sometimes let their responses be guided by the non-verbal cues from the interpreter. What's more, the interpreter is often in a position of authority, and clients from some more polite cultures may not speak out if they think that the interpreter misunderstood them or if they think the interpreter is trying to shut them up.

In conference interpreting, the interpreter can be reasonably certain that the client knows what he's talking about and will use fairly precise language, i.e. the interpreter can trust the client and accept what he hears at face value. But in medical interpreting, the client is often asked very difficult questions and his responses are sometimes vague, verbose and descriptive... and simply translating those responses into the target language literally may not necessarily be sufficient.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:46
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
A lot of immigrants who need interpretation earn minimum wages Sep 10, 2015

Do you expect them to pay an agency $120-150 per hour for a doctor appointment?

 

TechStyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:46
Bad medical translations Sep 10, 2015

Samuel Murray wrote:

I would have hoped that professional medical interpreters would know how to deal with inaccurate responses from their clients, but the example videos about this on e.g. Youtube don't paint a pretty picture. For example, I see a lot of medical interpreters who assume that the client knows that the interpreter is a neutral party in the conversation, but clients in these situations often regard the interpreter as an expert communicator, and so they sometimes let their responses be guided by the non-verbal cues from the interpreter. What's more, the interpreter is often in a position of authority, and clients from some more polite cultures may not speak out if they think that the interpreter misunderstood them or if they think the interpreter is trying to shut them up.

In conference interpreting, the interpreter can be reasonably certain that the client knows what he's talking about and will use fairly precise language, i.e. the interpreter can trust the client and accept what he hears at face value. But in medical interpreting, the client is often asked very difficult questions and his responses are sometimes vague, verbose and descriptive... and simply translating those responses into the target language literally may not necessarily be sufficient.


Ohh yes ... sadly, that hope is all too misplaced from the little I've seen of it. Like the "translator" provided for a psychiatric patient, in our highest security psychiatric hospital/prison - now, bear in mind, this was a pre-arranged appointment, not an emergency situation. Introducing herself with a simple sentence, "I am here to translate", she managed to butcher the two longest words as well as missing out "am".

Then, during the interview, she triggered the attack alarm, which summons a large team of highly-trained specialists equipped to restrain and subdue the most dangerous and violent mentally ill criminals in the country, the real life Hannibal Lecters ... because she "felt a bit nervous".
Or
I can't even begin to imagine how badly the key medico-legal phrases there must have been butchered. "Significantly impaired decision making ability", "lacking in insight", "lacking capacity" ... the poor client was probably left thinking he was about to be used for medical experimentation or something! Or that he was in a really, really weird hairdressing salon.


 

JadeM
Germany
Local time: 23:46
German to English
Help for migrants Sep 11, 2015

The refugee phrasebook sounds like an excellent idea. It can also be possible to find help at an advice centre or Beratungsstelle in Berlin. I used to work at an advice centre for migrants and one of my responsibilities was to interpret for English speaking migrants and asylum seekers (or to speak for them in appointments if they couldn't speak English but their situation had been explained to me by one of my colleagues). Most of these appointments concerned legal/social situations, but I did attend some medical appointments with clients too.

Of course it would be best to use a professional medical interpreter in all cases, but as was mentioned earlier, migrants/asylum seekers simply cannot afford to pay for these services themselves.


 

Silvia Di Profio  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:46
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
Medical phrasebook Sep 11, 2015

Just to remain in topic, the project has a specific group on FB, open to translators, doctors, and experienced people in healthcare, in case anyone could give his/her support or share with skilled helpers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1648888348690054/
Unfortunately, I can only follow this "excellent idea" and spread the word but I'm sure translators' community could be significant during this emergency phase.


 

Lourdes Barrientos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
Bilingual does not make anyone a trained and experienced interpreter Sep 16, 2015

I agree with Reed D. James at a 1,000,000%.
That's my summary.
Lulu proz profile 22397


 

Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 07:46
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
The financial issue Oct 5, 2015

Danik 2014 wrote:

The article may be right but migrants very often don´t have enough money.


Interpreting services for migrants are free in Australia. We are a welfare state.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:46
Russian to English
+ ...
Absolutely. No one should EVER use anyone who is not a professional interpreter Oct 8, 2015

to interpret in any scenario. Simply, some relatives or friends who speak certain languages to and intermediate level, or even higher, think that they can interpret, but they usually don't, and may cause serious problems. You need a medical interpreter only to interpret in various medical facilities. You should not use any administrative personnel either, such as bilingual secretaries, or even nurses.

[Edited at 2015-10-08 08:27 GMT]


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:46
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Anecdotal reference Oct 8, 2015

This has been on the web for years.
Some knowledge of Spanish is required.

Unos compadres se van a Houston de mojados y no hablan Ingles. Llega uno de ellos todo torcido por el viaje en la troca y se queja con el otro compadre:

- Oiga compadre tengo un dolor pero perrón en la muñeca que se me sube pa'rriba hasta el conejo, luego como que se retacha pa'tras y pega en la paleta y de ahi pa'rriba hasta las sienes compadre.

El compadre contesta:

- Untate mentolato y no estés fregando. ....

El compadre insiste en que lo lleve al doctor porque el dolor esta muy severo y el compadre más o menos habla Ingles.

Llegan los compadres al Merciful Hospital y se entrevistan con el Dr. Expliquele mi dolencia - dice el compadre adolorido- Uste si habla algo de inglich compadre....

El compadre leido, inicia la explicación:

- Look Doitor, aqui mi withfather tiene un pain bien doggy que begun in the left doll and then run up to the rabbit. And from the rabbit como que take pa' la backward until the lollipop y luego agarra, pesca y get pa'rriba and finish in the "one hundreds" the los dos lados...

El doctor en tono molesto le reprende:

- You are mental retarded.

Y el compadre leido le explica al otro:

- ¿Ya ves compadre? Que te pongas mentolato reti'arto...


The point is that whoever needs an interpreter won't be able to assess anyone's performance in a language they don't know.


 


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