Keep in mind that when you are working with an LEP (Limited English Proficiency) person, the appointment will go differently compared to providing a service to an English speaking person. Here are some elements to keep in mind when working with interpreter services:
- Time: Be ready to plan for the appointment to last probably twice the time as a usual one.
- Briefing: If possible, give a quick summary to the interpreter of what the appointment will be about. Include any important details that the interpreter should know. This will prepare the interpreter on what to expect and he/she will appreciate it.
- Accuracy and Confidentiality: Everything said at the appointment will be interpreted. Also, everything said at the appointment will be kept confidential. Once the appointment is completed, the interpreter will shred any notes taken during the encounter.
- Speak in first person: You may feel inclined to talk to the interpreter and say something like, "Please ask the patient if he has been taking his medication as instructed". Instead, ask: "Have you been taking your medication as instructed?" This will build rapport with the patient even though you are speaking different languages.
- Be clear and make pauses: Speak clearly in order to ensure the interpreter can hear you. Also, pause often so the interpreter can render your message into the other language. Trained interpreters have strong memory skills, however, they can only remember so much. Allowing for pauses and speaking in chunks will ensure that every detail is interpreted accurately. If the interpreter needs you to pause, he/she will let you know with a hand/body gesture.
- Interpreter's notes: As mentioned above, the interpreter may be taking notes and might be focused on his/her notepad. Do not be surprised if he/she is not looking directly to either you or the patient. This means the interpreter is focused on the task at hand and is paying extra attention to everything said during the appointment.
- NOTE: In this digital era, dictionaries are now in smart phones. Do not be surprised if the interpreter checks a term right on his/her smart device and/or takes notes on the device.
- Documents: The interpreter is there to facilitate oral communication. If you have a legal form that needs to be filled out by the recipient, make sure you have it translated by a professional translator prior to the appointment. Interpreting and translation are two different professions that require different set of skills. Do not ask the interpreter to read or explain a legal document to the patient; instead, summarize it or explain it to the receipient in your own words and the interpreter will be able to render that message into the other language.
- NOTE: Interpreters can "sight translate" a short informative document, no longer than a couple paragraphs. However, legal forms have legal ramifications and cannot be sight translated.
- Do not leave the recipient alone with the interpreter: A trained interpreter will let you know about this, should the situation arise. Due to interpreters code of ethics and liability reasons, leaving the recipient alone with the interpreter is never a good idea. The interpreter is to remain unbiased and any form of interaction outside of interpretation can affect this neutral stance.
We hope these basics are helpful for your next interpreter services appointment! Although it can feel a bit awkward at first, following this guide will ensure a smooth and successful appointment, no matter the situation.
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