Counting Words! Why interpreters should not add to what is said.

June 6, 2011 JAlfonso 1 comment

Interpreters must be diligent in following ethical guidelines.

A while back, I was assigned to interpret at a doctor’s office.  When I arrived and introduced myself to the patient, he stated, “I already have an interpreter!”  The interpreter entered the office, wondering why I was there.  A few moments later, a nurse case manager came into the room.  The case manager proceeded to explain to me that I was there to make sure the other interpreter did her job accurately.

The other interpreter was under suspicion of being an advocate and speaking for the client instead of interpreting.  At a previous visit, the doctor asked how the patient’s knee was.  The patient’s response was “bien, pero duele un poco,” a total of five words (most of them understood by the doctor and case manager).  However, the interpreter said, “I have a lot of pain in my knee. It’s deep inside like if something is loose, and the pain radiates up and down my leg;” about 27 words.

The case manager actually counted the words!  Needless to say, while I was present, the interpreter did a fine job.

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