Interpreting Humor and Jokes: Who has the Last Laugh?

I’m very excited to share with you this very special post –  the first guest post on the Medical Interpreter Blog! The idea for it came about when I was attending the California Healthcare Interpreting Association’s 20th Educational Conference conference in San Diego, California.  I attended many excellent workshops and presentations that day, but one presentation, Humor and Jokes: Who has the Last Laugh? was particularly enjoyable, not least because the team presenting it was also from Seattle!  So when I approached Tamas Farkas and Michaela Kiley of the Cross Cultural Health Care Program (CCHCP) after their talk, they humored me (pun intended!) and kindly agreed to share their ideas with readers of this blog. So now you, too, can learn why dealing with humor in medical settings is no joke and what to do when somebody decides to make a pun.

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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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For Interpreters by Interpreters: Useful Resources and Interesting Content

Sometimes, it can be hard for interpreters and translators to meet in person. My friend and a fellow interpreter Angelika and I work for many of the same agencies and often take appointments at the same hospitals, and so we often joke that our favorite meeting place is hospital parking garages – because that’s where we often meet and snatch a few minutes of hurried catch-up before running off to our respective assignments. There are, of course, conferences and other events put on by professional organizations and associations – I’m a proud member of NOTIS (The Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society), which not only organizes classes and workshops for interpreters (some of which I teach) but also puts on a fabulous annual conference (which this year took place in the Museum of Flight!) and fun holiday parties. 

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Conferences, workshops and holiday parties are a great opportunity to learn, to network and to meet new friends (and to show off your ugly Christmas sweater!), but how do you connect with fellow interpreters and translators outside of such events? Luckily, we language professionals are nothing if not resourceful and there are many online communities, blogs, groups and other places where interpreters and translators can talk, ask for advice, and share their wisdom and experience with others. This blog post will outline some resources and content created by interpreters, for interpreters – and translators, too! 

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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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