Not competitors, but comrades: In-person interpreters as users of the Canopy Medical Translator app
Blanca Cecilia Lindner is a Spanish-English medical interpreter who lives and works in North Carolina. She started working as an interpreter in August of 2014 after taking a medical interpreting course.
Speaking two languages fluently does not an interpreter make. Blanca admits that she was not initially convinced she would be good at it. Her first experiences interpreting information from English-Spanish were in transmitting information between her Colombian parents and her German husband; “I would forget to interpret for my husband! My mother would say something in Spanish and I would turn to my husband to tell him, but also in Spanish... I wasn’t naturally good at it. It’s really not easy to transfer information into the other language: even if you speak it fluently, it can get confused. You have to be very clear.”
After taking the medical interpreting course and learning the ropes, Blanca feels that she excels as an interpreter. She translates with ease. Blanca can be called in to interpret for a wide variety of specialties: that's an abundance of medical vocabulary to keep on hand both in English and in Spanish.
Blanca’s appointments are scheduled and she will know a few days in advance whether she will be translating for a cardiologist, dermatologist, a family practice physician, etc. Blanca uses the Canopy Medical Translator app as a refresher for medical terminology. Before arriving at the consultation, Blanca will take some time to go into the app to review important terms:
“When I know I’m interpreting for a cardiologist, I really like to go into the app to look for the most common sentences that might come up in a conversation between the doctor and the patient. I could use a dictionary, but you cannot translate word-for-word! You really need to understand the meaning of the sentence. The app does a really good job with that. I often find that the words in the app are much more appropriate to the greater meaning of what has to be communicated.”
The app is not meant to replace human interpretation; it is a perfect resource for those who are responsible for translating specific and sensitive medical information.
“I have lived in two countries - the United States and Germany - where I didn’t speak a word of the language when I arrived. It was so difficult for me. I remember once I was at a restaurant and I tried so hard to order a steak, but they gave me a Coke. I wasn’t able to say what I wanted! I remember being frustrated, scared. I was so fortunate to be able to learn these two languages, but I know for many people it is not easy. I have always been willing to help people who cannot speak English here in the States. Even in the supermarket, I try to help people communicate. When I realized I could work as an interpreter, it dawned on me that I would be doing something I’ve always wanted to do: help people with my languages.”
Dr. Christine O'Dea discusses the scope of the language barrier in healthcare and the importance of learning medical Spanish.
As health care providers, it is our responsibility to provide comfort and act as a source of information for all the patients we see. Language barriers can make this extremely difficult, especially when compounded by the shaky inexperienced hands of young medical students. It is vitally important for all young health professionals to properly educate themselves in the language and necessary skills before endeavoring to care for people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Journal Of Palliative Medicine: "Patient-Reported Barriers To High-Quality, End-Of-Life Care: A Multiethnic, Multilingual, Mixed-Methods Study"
by Vyjeyanthi S. Periyakoil et al.
A woman called 911 after her husband was attacked with a machete and it took four minutes to connect her to a Spanish-English interpreter over the phone.
The tragic case of Willie Ramirez regarding the mistranslation of a single word -- "intoxicado" -- should serve to fuel action to change the landscape of language services.
We've sourced a few different articles all discussing mistranslations in different spheres: commercial advertising, political and diplomatic communications, healthcare communication, etc. Some of these mistranslations are comical and lighthearted, but some are far less trivial.
This study published in Pediatrics examined the accuracy of the Spanish translations for medicine labels for a group of 286 participating pharmacies in the Bronx, NY.
Susan Mirabal has a masters in biology with a biophysics concentration, experience with health policy, and is a candidate for an M.D. In this blog piece, she offers her personal insights into the immigrant patient experience and she discusses her active efforts to change the linguistic and cultural landscape of healthcare in the future. An inspiring woman and an inspiring read!
A guest blog post by Kaitlin E. Thomas, M.A.
"We live in a unique time when many communities are being forced to reevaluate the manner in which they administer services to demographics that present new linguistic and cultural challenges at an unprecedented rate. Too often the solution is to rely on tools that only serve to widen the gap by producing nonsensical text (a challenge for those with low or nonexistent literacy levels) or essentially belittle the patient by speaking “at” them rather than “with” them, or at worst, not speaking to them at all."
Capped hospital departmental budgets and the lack of reimbursement for interpretation services have slowed the incorporation of language access plans in healthcare....[This] poses the possibility of a catastrophic future that endangers the health and safety of language minority patients, the financial stability of healthcare facilities, and the overall quality of care in our ever-diversifying, multi-cultural country.