Idioms for Medical Interpreters: Practice Activities

This blog post is a collection of practice activities meant both to accompany my webinar on Interpreting Idioms and Cultural References and also provide opportunities for self-study. If you haven’t attended my webinar, read this blog post which will provide you with an overview of strategies for interpreting idioms:Idioms for Medical Interpreters.

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Note-taking for Consecutive Interpretation: Resources and Practice Materials

person holding orange click pen writing on notebookNote-taking as part of consecutive interpretation is an essential skill for any interpreter – whether you’re interpreting at a medical appointment, a deposition, or a conference, and whether you’re doing this in person, over the phone or remotely. This blog post is a collection of resources for developing note-taking skills meant both to accompany my webinar on note-taking and also provide opportunities for self-study. In addition to pooling together materials from a variety of sources, this post contains some practical exercises I created especially for this blog post.

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Thank You For the Words: Building Your Interpreter Glossary

I’m not sure where this drawing is from but from time to time it makes rounds in various interpreter groups on social media. Aside from being funny, the image captures the true nature of the interpreter profession: it’s a highly-skilled job. Being a good interpreter involves well-developed listening and speaking skills, a strong memory, note-taking skills, sound knowledge of the code of ethics in your chosen field(s) – and being the proverbial embodiment of a walking dictionary.

It’s certainly true that no one can know ALL of the words related to a particular subject – after all, the English language contains roughly 1 million words, and most adult native English speakers have a vocabulary which includes only a fraction of that – about 20,000–35,000 words. However, interpreters must possess a professional vocabulary that encompasses a wide variety of terms they can expect to encounter on a daily basis, be it medical, legal or political terminology. The building of your glossary starts when you begin preparing for certification exams and stops… well, never. It never stops. Even the most knowledgable and experienced interpreter will encounter new words and expressions or will need to prepare for a new kind of assignment. So, as interpreters, we need a way to work with our personal glossaries: organizing terminology, learning it, revising it, and sharing it with others. This blog post will suggest some options for glossary management.

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Resources for Interpreting in Cancer Care

IMG_7654One of the interpreter training workshops I offer is Interpreting in Cancer Care. At a recent workshop, many of the participants commented on the curated list of resources I put together as part of the workshop handout and I decided to share it with my blog readers.

Now, oncology is an enormous field with many sub-specialties and nobody can know everything – not even medical providers. However, as interpreters, we should always strive to develop our knowledge and our glossaries. Whether you’re a seasoned interpreter who wants to brush up on oncology terminology before an appointment or a new interpreter who wants to be ready for interpreting in cancer care, I hope you’ll find this list of resources helpful. Continue reading “Resources for Interpreting in Cancer Care”

Pre-session: a Medical Interpreter’s Best Friend

Why are pre-sessions necessary?

Doctor: “Tell him to hop up on the exam table… Now, has he had these symptoms for a while? Ask him if he’s taken anything for it…” (Wait, why is the doctor talking to me and not the patient? What do I do now?)

Patient: “Oh dear, that doctor looks too young to be practicing medicine… Wait, did you just interpret this? Why would you do this?” (Oh no! Now the patient won’t trust me!)

If you are a professional medical interpreter, chances are that you have encountered similar situations. If you are only just starting out in the profession, somebody might have warned you about these things happening. Yes, on an ideal interpreting assignment, the doctor and patient speak in utterances of reasonable length and at a reasonable pace, not saying anything they wouldn’t want to be interpreted, all the while making eye contact and speaking directly to each other. In real life, things may not go so perfectly – and not because people involved don’t want us to do our jobs, but rather because they might not have worked with interpreters before and therefore might not know the best way to fully utilize the help of a professional interpreter. They might also have concerns about having another person present at a doctor’s appointment – one that is not wearing scrubs or a white coat and at first glance does not look like part of a healthcare team. As a result, patients might be reluctant to divulge sensitive information in the presence of an interpreter. The list goes on.

As interpreters going into a healthcare encounter, we can either hope that none of the above happens, or we can help ensure that conditions are created that enable us to interpret to the best of our abilities and allow us to do our job – that is, enable people to communicate as if they were speaking the same language. One way to make this happen is by having a pre-session.

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