On Saturday, April 8, 2017, over 130 professional interpreters, translators, and related fields attended the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters‘ signature event, the 30th Annual Conference. This event not only offers outstanding professional development, but also excellent networking opportunities. This year’s event was hosted at Wake Forest University, Benson Center, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. CATI is a chapter of the American Translators Association.
Our keynote speaker was Johanna Parker, M.A., a CCHI Certified Healthcare Interpreter, a NBCMI Certified Medical Interpreter, Federal Certified Court Interpreter, and California Certified Court Interpreter. The title of the keynote address was Raising the Standards for Healthcare Interpreting – It Starts With Us. There are various myths that not only clients but also practicing interpreters have regarding medical interpreting. Ms. Parker tackled those myths and disproved them.
In South Carolina in 2011, 289,004 residents spoke a language other than English at home. The percentage of those residents who speak English less than very well is 41.4%. That means that in 2011, 119,647 people cannot verbally communicate effectively without the benefit of a professional, credentialed interpreter. In NC, there are about a million foreign-language speaking residents, and about 250,000 speak English less than very well. As of 2013, the number of SC residents speaking a language other than English at home was 308,396. Between 2000 and 2013, the increase in foreign language speakers at home in NC is 69%; the increase for SC is 57%.
It is not that medical interpreting is easier than court interpreting; they are different. All interpreters must use the three practice modes: simultaneous, consecutive, and sight translation. Occasionally, candidates are told that healthcare interpreting is easier than court interpreting. These candidates then take the healthcare certification exam and fail. The practice of interpretation is a demanding profession, and being bilingual is only a prerequisite for interpreting.
Why do we see lower standards and provider expectations of lower standards in medical interpreting? A full-time federally certified court interpreter earns approximately $108,000 annually. A full-time certified medical or healthcare interpreter earns about $41,000 annually. A seasoned, professional, skilled interpreter who supports her family will usually specialize in the practice where remuneration is higher. Everyone who provides healthcare services must be credentialed. Why is this mandate not enforced with interpreters? Uncertified paraprofessionals have been allowed to “interpret,” giving the appearance of providing language access while decreasing its meaningfulness and accuracy, just to save money. That is bad medicine and a farce.
I’m happy to report that in the SC Upstate, it is becoming impossible for uncertified individuals to obtain interpreter positions. Educate the community, those in primary and secondary academia, and the medical field of the worth of certified healthcare and medical interpreters. They cost more, because they know more. Engage practicing physicians and other healthcare professionals to demand the best neutral language conduits – certified professionals. We invite everyone to raise the standards in healthcare interpreting by becoming certified and requiring use of only certified interpreters.
Additionally, the CCHI sponsored our conference by offering up to three continuing interpreter education credits for approved sessions. Jorge Ungo presented on Interpreting for Sexual and Gender Minorities. Medical providers and those in the LGBQTIA community have their own beliefs and biases. If a healthcare interpreter hasn’t found herself in this setting yet, chances are she will in the future. Fortune favors the prepared. As medical interpreters are neutral bridges, they must remain impartial and not impact the encounter. Cultural sensitivity is required.
Johana Parker’s session dealt with how to describe pain: Describa el dolor: Interpreting Pain for the Record. Interpreting the questions and answers can be tricky in the workers’ compensation area. This session was geared toward Spanish practitioners, but all language pairs would learn valuable insights. The skill building exercises in this session involved attendee participation.
The final healthcare session was presented by Isabelle Berquin, Targeted therapies of cancer: perspectives of a researcher turned translator. Many “umabs” and “inibs” are revolutionizing medicine. They are also presenting translation challenges. Examples were presented in French, though other language pairs benefited from the information.
Approximately 23 people attended the session North Carolina Court Interpreter Certification – The Process, Responsibilities, and Perks by Brooke Bogue Crozier, J.D. Ms. Crozier is the manager of the North Carolina Administrative Office of Courts’ Office of Language Access Services. It was made quite clear that only certified court interpreters have met the minimum standards of proficiency. Level A2 are certified court interpreters. Level A1 are Federal certified court interpreters and certified court interpreters scoring 80% on all three sections are master certified court interpreters.
Interpreters who have failed the three sections of the oral certification exam have limited opportunities to retake the test. If a candidate does not retake and pass the test within 2 years, the candidate must restart the process. Additionally, there are only a few versions of the oral certification exam available. Therefore, it is vital that a candidate pass before being barred from state court certification.
Interpreters who scored at least 60% on all three sections, or failed only one section, are considered Level B, conditionally qualified. These interpreters do not meet the minimum standards of proficiency, but are permitted to interpret in all NC courts except for Superior Court. Level B interpreters must complete certification within two years or they will be removed from the court interpreter roster and barred from interpreting in NC courts.
There were other valuable sessions. I invite you to visit CATI on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for other reviews.