In Compliance, Interpreting

According to the US Census Bureau, more than 25 million Americans speak English “less than very well” [1]. That means this specific population is less able to access adequate health care, education, and other services. Additionally, this population is at a much higher risk of unfortunate outcomes when communicating within these industries. This might include severe drug complications and low patient satisfaction as a result of improper communication, misunderstanding legal implications, and more. Communication is key in any setting, but it’s especially vital when working with someone who does not speak the same language. This is when utilizing a professional interpreter should be considered.

In these instances, it is necessary to utilize an interpreter to ensure effective communication. All too often, people rely on a family member or a close friend to interpret communication for them, whether that be within a clinical, legal, or other setting. While that might seem like a great idea, there are several reasons why utilizing a professional interpreter is the way to go.

Why to Use a Professional Interpreter:

  1. A trained interpreter professional will limit the likelihood of errors within the interpretation. An unfamiliarity with certain terminology will greatly increase the chances of misinterpretation, which can be detrimental within certain settings. There are certain qualifications and training courses required within the healthcare and legal industries for example, which will greatly aid in a professional’s ability to interpret correctly.
  2. If utilizing a friend or family member to interpret, there is no guarantee of confidentiality. Professional interpreters abide by the same confidentiality laws as other trained professionals within the industry. For example, a medical interpreter abides by the HIPPA laws, just as a doctor or nurse would.
  3. Friends and family members may have their own agenda while interpreting. Consider having a sibling interpret a medical diagnosis. He or she may be afraid to interpret the real news and could hide the truth in order to keep the atmosphere positive and upbeat. Consequently, this will only end in mistreatment and lack of care to better the patient’s condition. Or, think of a child interpreting for a parent at his or her own parent-teacher conference. Children are likely only to pass along information they want their parent to know.
  4. Unsolicited advice or input is very likely when someone close is interpreting. A professional interpreter is required to interpret word for word, without adding in additional information. This allows the Limited-English-Proficient (LEP) individual to get an unbiased message without false interpretation.
  5. Friends and family members who are not trained on the subject at hand are likely to distract the conversation while quickly trying to fill in the gaps or even look things up on their phones. How many of us know what choledocholithiasis is? (It’s gallstones.) Most people would have to look that up to understand it in English, first, before even trying to interpret it in another language. Or imagine a young child trying to interpret for a parent at a health appointment. A lack of understanding of health and the human body will greatly interfere with the child’s ability to interpret a diagnosis correctly.

These are just a few of the reasons why utilizing a professional interpreter is the best method to ensure an accurate interpretation. Bilingual friends and family members are great references to be utilized at home or to assist with the situation. However, taking advantage of a professional interpreter will always ensure the best possible outcome for consistent and accurate information.

Vocalink Global offers a full suite of language interpreting services. Please connect with us today to learn more about how we can help you communicate clearly in any language.

[1] https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2013/demo/2009-2013-lang-tables.html

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