The field of community interpreting has come into its own over the past 30 or so years with respect to both practice and research. Yet clearly major issues remain, and development is uneven. The fundamental issue of whether professional interpreters or (trained) cultural mediators (or untrained volunteers and family members) should be preferred to assist bilingual communication in healthcare still demands attention. Legal requirements, social priorities, the extent of cultural differences between providers and seekers of their services, and the number of speakers of particular minority languages in a given area will all continue to influence the choices being made. Nevertheless, further research bearing on the issues, especially with regard to ethical questions, barriers to understanding, and health outcomes, is needed.
In addition, there is a need for better understanding of each party’s active role in mediated bilingual communication. This can lead to improvements in the design of interpreter training and the creation of instructional materials (role plays, glossaries, readings, etc.) as well as making appropriate training and educational programmes for prospective community interpreters more widely available.
- 1 The preferred term is interpreting rather than interpretation. One reason for preferring the participle is to emphasise the interactive and transitory nature of interpreting, which unlike translation does not result in a permanent record. Another reason is to avoid confusion with other meanings of the word interpretation, as in the interpretation of a work of art or of a body of medical data (NCIHC 2001: 5).
- 2 To simplify the phrasing in the remainder of this chapter, I will refer to speakers and hearers, without direct reference to communication involving signed languages. Much of what is said here applies equally to interpreting into and out of signed languages.
- 3 The demands on court interpreters are in many ways unique. Court interpreting is thus sometimes included under the community interpreting label and sometimes not. Since our focus here is on the medical setting we will not enter into this discussion.
- 4 Categories 1, 2 and 7 would also perform ‘professionally’ but according to their own medical profession's standards, not according to the standards of the interpreting profession.
- 5 www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/nyregion/291ost.html (Accessed: 31 March 2020).
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This article traces how, over time, open discussion among interpreters and other stakeholders led to broad agreement on healthcare interpreters’ roles.
Hsieh, E. (2016) Bilingual Health Communication: Working with Interpreters in Cross-Cultural Care. London and New York: Routledge.
This important book investigates interpreting from the perspectives of both interpreters and medical providers and proposes a new theoretical framework for future research and practice.
Flores, G., et al. (2012) ‘Errors of Medical Interpretation and Their Potential Clinical Consequences: A Comparison of Professional vs Ad Hoc vs No Interpreters’, Annals of Emergency Medicine, 60(5), pp. 545-553.
A study of the quality of communication in bilingual medical interviews, showing the value of interpreter training in reducing transmission errors.
Hale, S. B. (2007) Community Interpreting. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
A thorough treatment of medical and legal interpreting, including contexts of practice, ethics, training, and research.
National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (2005) National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Healthcare. NCIHC. Available at: www.ncihc.org (Accessed: 28 May 2019).
An influential document guiding current practices of professional healthcare interpreters.
Child Language Brokering in Healthcare Settings, Healthcare Interpreting Ethics, The Impact of Interpreters and the Rise of Deaf Healthcare Professionals
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