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What’s the Usual Role of an Interpreter in a day to day Setting?

Overall, the role of an interpreter is to enable communication to take place between two or more individuals who are unable to understand one another because they don’t speak the same language. The interpreter isn’t responsible for what is actually said by the parties who need to understand each other but is responsible for making sure that what is said is accurately communicated in the language required.

There is, however, the assumption that the interpreter will have enough knowledge of the two languages to know that the information being translated is correct. It’s important that an interpreter has some specific understanding of the language and setting of their interpreting services. This is vital if providing interpreting services in a health care setting.

What is the Role of an Interpreter in Healthcare?

Can you imagine what would happen if a person had a serious accident while on vacation in a country that spoke a language different from their own? All sorts of misunderstandings could take place. Depending on the seriousness of the accident, the healthcare professionals have to be able to get the right message across regarding the health status of the accident victim, the treatment that is required and the likely recovery time. The only way this can be done is by having a competent interpreter available to provide intercommunication between the health care professionals and the victim and his or her family.

What are the Languages Usually Available through Interpreter Services?

Most interpreter services are aware of the commonest languages that are likely to be encountered in a health care setting and have interpreters available to quickly meet the healthcare facilities requirements. They can provide these services as soon as they are contacted and can send a human interpreter to the health care facility to enable full understanding to take place between the patient and the healthcare provider.

If the language required is not available through a local interpreter, the interpreter’s agency can usually access a suitable interpreter from overseas who can use a telephone to help with the interpretation process. If need be, a webcam can be set up by internet link where face to face communication can take place. There is no limit to the number of languages that can be provided by an interpreter service.

What does an Interpreter do in a Healthcare Setting?

The main role of an interpreter in a healthcare environment could be any of the following:

● Informing the patient about the diagnosis made by a doctor.
● Discussing patient needs with the patient’s relatives.
● Asking the patient to describe any allergies to medicines such as penicillin.
● Explaining treatment programmes to the patient.
● Outlining how to use prescribed drugs.

What is the Value of an Interpreter in a Healthcare Environment?

Without the services of an interpreter, all sorts of misunderstandings could take place. These could include any of the following:

● A medical professional prescribing drugs that the patient is allergic to and could cause allergic reactions.
● Misunderstandings about the diagnosis provided by a medical professional.
● Misunderstandings about the precautions a patient should follow when sent home after treatment.
● Follow-up treatment necessary once a patient is sent home.
● Frequency and dosages for drugs that have been prescribed.

It doesn’t take much to realise how important an interpreter is in the world today. Not everyone is able to learn a language sufficiently in order to be able to communicate effectively when not in their usual home environment whether they are on holiday in another country or are visiting for business purposes.

The role of an interpreter is to fill this language gap so that people in particular in a healthcare setting are able to communicate their needs to health professionals and in turn, the health care providers can explain a diagnosis, treatment plan and projected recovery time to all those concerned about the patient.

The interpreter doesn’t provide his or her own opinion but simply offers an interpretation of the words put in front of him or her. What’s most important is ensuring all words interpreted are accurate and improve communication between healthcare professionals and the patients they are treated whatever language they speak.


If you work in the healthcare environment and many of your patients don’t speak your language, the best thing to do is to ensure an interpreter is available as required to facilitate communication between you and your patients.

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