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Our Burning Questions about Interpreters Are Finally Answered [Part 1]

Even though we’re an interpretation company, we don’t know everything about the industry. Or the people who make the industry happen in the first place: interpreters. 

Which is OK by us, because we love learning. 

And it just so happens that we have many, many talented, professional interpreters surrounding us who are willing to help us out by answering our most pressing questions. Like Helen, CLI’s video remote interpreting (VRI) team lead and certified medical Russian interpreter (CMI-Russian). 

Our first round of questions — and Helen’s answers — are below! 

Where are interpreters needed?

Do you wonder who works with interpreters, and in which situations? Helen explains where interpreters are needed most.

Helen: The short answer is anywhere and everywhere someone can’t speak English (or whatever the common language is).

But if you think about it, whatever your business is, it doesn’t matter what sphere of business you’re in, I’m sure you would encounter plenty of situations where your client or your patient does not speak the same language as you do. 

Now, if you own a restaurant or a grocery store, you can, you know, get by with a picture menu or utilize Google Translate because there is absolutely room for those types of tools, but if we consider any other types of encounters — medical, financial, legal, or travel — anything else really, it does become essential to make sure things do not get missed. That all the important information is relayed and understood by both parties. 

So … everywhere!

Related: 4 Facts You Need To Know about Freelance Interpreters

When would someone need an interpreter?

Helen describes when it’s important to use a qualified interpreter.

Helen: I think it’s easier to answer that [by answering] when they are not needed. 

You do not need interpreters when there are no linguistic or cultural barriers to communication. 

In every other instance, you will save yourself a lot of trouble, a lot of potential liability, by using a qualified interpreter

Are interpreters essential workers in healthcare and hospitals?

Helen details why interpreters are essential workers — and what happens when healthcare interpreters aren’t used in medical settings.

Helen: I am an interpreter, so I will say, absolutely!

Absolutely, they are. 

So think about it this way: If you’re a surgeon or an internist or a primary care doctor or an OB-GYN, you will only be able to treat effectively and avoid irreparable mistakes if you’re going off the correct information that your patient provides. 

And you will have access to the correct information only if you are able to understand your patient well and know that your patient understands you. And this can only happen if you use a qualified, and I would add culturally aware, interpreter. 

It is unrealistic and truthfully unwise to expect each hospital and healthcare facility to staff for every possible language they could possibly ever need access to with a skilled and qualified interpreter. 

But that’s where having a working relationship with a remote interpretation company, such as Certified Languages International or another one, could be not only beneficial but really critical. 

Can you give us an example of a time you felt your interpreting services were critical?

Helen: So I often talk about how I interpreted for a patient who was denied care based on incorrect information noted in her chart from previous encounters. 

For a while, I was sure the provider thought that I was a no-good interpreter because I was contradicting everything he knew about the patient, but being able to correct it for her was super important. 

Sometimes I feel like I sound like a broken record, but I cannot emphasize it enough: working with a skilled and qualified interpreter in your healthcare encounter saves time, money, lots of frustration for both parties, and lives.

What questions do you have about interpreters? If we don’t have the answers on hand, we can find out for you. Ask away!