Medical Interpreters need to hear

I know this seems obvious, but an interpreter must understand what is being said if he is to transmit the information. With that in mind, here are some issues I have run into making that task more difficult.


Some people tend to speak in a quit voice or mumble. Although I try very hard to focus and listen attentively, at time I must ask them to speak up or repeat themselves which is annoying to everyone and slows down the communication flow.

Also, sometimes busy professionals who tend to multi task will speak while digging in a draw or typing on the computer or looking around for something. All of that can make it more difficult for the interpreter to hear, so please face the patient and speak clearly. It will be very helpful.

This problem is compounded if a video remote interpreter is used or worse yet a telephonic interpreter. Not only does the technology have limitations, but sometimes you might also have a bad signal.

Although I truly believe that professional interpreters are best in person, I recognize that certain language groups might not have a local interpreter available. The only viable option is the remote interpreter using technology.

Slangs and Humor:

Slangs, sarcasm, and humor can often be very difficult to interpret. If the interpreter doesn’t understand the expression, he won’t be able to do his job properly. He most likely will ask you for clarification which will also affect the flow of the meeting.

When working with an interpreter, keeping the information simple and straightforward typically has the best results.

Talking Fast:

I have been practicing my note taking to better manage the interpreting flow and allow the speaker to talk longer. I can tell you this, the faster you speak and the more you say, the more likely some piece of information will be lost. Try to break down what you say in a clear concise manner with pauses, so the interpreter can keep up. In the end it will result in a successful meeting.


Certified interpreters typically have been trained to manage the flow of communication. However, these simple reminders will be very helpful to the certified interpreter and extremely helpful to those who aren’t.

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