I always get asked to be an interpreter for patients who are not native English speakers, specifically for those of Asian background. Because I am of Asian background as well, there is this assumption that I speak every language in Asia or that there is only one language/country in Asia. Unbelievable.

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March 17th, 2012 | Comments (4)

4 Responses to “”

  1. Andrea:

    Not only was this silly (and racist) on their part, it’s also unethical. A hospital should have a protocol in place for obtaining *professional* interpreters to help with patients. Pulling in a random staff person who happens to use the same language (even if you *did* magically channel all the many different languages spoken throughout the Asia/Pacific region!) might be okay in a pinch while you’re waiting for the real interpreter to arrive. But is still no substitute for someone who is, not just bi-lingual, but also extensively trained and experienced and specifically certified as being qualified to interpret. And even then, in a hospital content (since you say “patient” I’m extrapolating) because of all the terminology that gets thrown around in that environment, any random certified interpreter for the relevant language still won’t be quite as good as someone who has specific expertise interpreting in a medical context. So not only are these people unfair to you in assuming you necessarily are competent to interpret but also are being unfair–and potentially hazardous–to the patients as well if they are not working on some way to hire a qualified professional.

    In the US, for deaf patients who use American Sign Language, hospitals technically are legally obligated to hire a qualified, certified ASL interpreter as needed (I say “technically” because not all hospitals actually do this, and even the ones who do don’t necessarily do it consistently if not all the front-line staff realize this is a requirement). I don’t know if there is a similar obligation for other languages (if so, there would be a different law involved–deaf patients in the US are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act). But it sound like there ought to be if there isn’t. Not that this would help with the way people seem to think Asia is all one country culture and language :-(

    • Rob T:

      This is true for other languages, I interpret Tagalog (filipino) at hospitals and all major hospitals near here have professional interpreters on call.

  2. Claire:

    Like Asian is a language! Clueless people. :/

  3. Shio:

    Maybe they couldn’t recognise the language the person was speaking?

    I speak a little Japanese so that’s fine, and I can differentiate between Korean and Chinese at a pinch, but throw Thai in there and I’m lost.

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