In health care, medical providers usually specialize in certain areas of expertise where they are at ease regarding anatomical systems, putative diagnostics, and technical vocabulary. Healthcare interpreters, on the contrary, are highly generalist on what comes to specialized terminology, and on top of that they have to be exceedingly fluent in more than one language. As anybody who works in this field might be aware of, in getting into the profession of medical/healthcare interpretation, interpreters walk into a complex path composed not of well signaled highways but of intricate networks with unending multiple sidetracked looping ramifications.
Besides being familiar with the patients’ background culture (especially in dealing with languages such as Arabic, French, and Spanish, due to the high cultural diversity of their speakers) it is also expected that while on duty, for the healthcare interpreter to be well versed on the culture of medicine at large (diseases, diagnostic tools, procedures, techniques, equipment, protocols, medications); something that implies the need for continuous learning mainly by new knowledge acquisition through reading, and by attending specialized courses and seminars.
It was along those lines, and in order to help fellow interpreters get acquainted with useful techniques towards this goal that last winter, the CCHI Managing Director, Natalya Mytareva, presented within the CCHI’s online webinar series: Medical Terminology for Healthcare Interpreters: Disease, Disorders & Treatments of the Gallbladder. In there, using the gallbladder purposely as a mere example, she discussed some of the most up to date and innovative techniques developed with the background idea to help with vocabulary acquisition and terminology relationships.
Among those, mind mapping, although an ancient one, it has been proved a very useful technique in helping to relate ideas. Mind mapping mimics our brain’s ideas association patterns, and allow them to be portrayed as a diagram that uses a non-lineal graphical layout to construct intuitive frameworks around a central concept or subject.
Although a mind map may easily be drawn using pen and paper, software has been developed to such a goal and therefore, medical terminology relationships can effortlessly be established with the help of computerized frameworks, some of which can be accessed at:
- Free mind-mapping applications:
- Mindmup; for Chrome (desktop & Android)
- SimpleMind+; for Apple (iphone, ipad)
There are multiple possibilities for building a mind map around a particular concept, putative branches, ramifications, and sub-ramifications that can be presented as a whole or in sections, depending on what is aimed at to be highlighted at a given stage of a particular study.
As an example of how a mind map can be constructed to help increase knowledge of a particular organ or system, and to provide awareness of the multiple relations that can be derived from it you can see here, out of several possible ones, a mind map built around the core of the gallbladder.
In regards to suitable ideas, techniques, and exercises for gaining vocabulary and building up terminology to improve interpretation agility, always paying attention to words and intention, healthcare interpreters can:
- Online search in English and non-English language:
- Using search engines from countries of origin of non-English language
- Accessing websites from local reputable institutions
- Practice parallel text matching (find language equivalents and verify accuracy)
- Analyze components
- Check denotations (literal meanings)
- Check connotations (ideas of feeling, register, emotional charge)
- Look for word pictures
And to help with those self-training endeavors serve this short list of available resources as starting point for anybody interested:
- https://translate.google.com/; for single words ONLY
- youtube.com; especially useful for watching functions & procedures
- Proz.com (The translation industry’s leading workplace)
- howjsay.com (A free online Talking English Pronunciation Dictionary)
- Asking people: ‘If I say this, what does it mean to you?’
- Language acquisition
- Practice consecutive and simultaneous interpretation
Now that you have the tools you just need to find yourself some time to put them to practice. Enjoy!
Author Jeanette Kibler
On April 17th, Interpreters of Languages of Lesser Diffusion joined our Japanese Interpreter colleagues for a workshop on interpreting at MPU appointments. We had a fascinating discussion as we quickly realized that Interpreters face different challenges depending on their culture.
One fun discussion was around the translation of the word “diabetes”. One of the Somali Interpreters explained that in her language “diabetes” is translated as the equivalent of “sweet pee” and is diagnosed because ants gather around the patient’s urine. A Thai Interpreter chimed in and said it was also the equivalent of “sweet pee” in her language. Then one of the Japanese Interpreters commented that in Japanese it is literally the characters for “sugar” and “urine” disease.
Orawan Wong, our Thai Interpreter wrote about her experience at the workshop: The word “stomach” has a different meaning in other cultures, especially in Thai culture. It covers the area from underneath the chest down to the end of the body trunk. At the MPU, patients will be asked about their medical history. Medical terms for diseases are used by medical personnel. The patients might not understand the terms even though they are translated into their language. It can be helpful to ask the patients what problems they are having or have had inside their stomach. And then, we can go from there to explain which organs and what symptoms they have or had.
And this from one of our newest Interpreters in Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi: Thank you so much for letting me participate in such an engaging, informative and a well-organized workshop. It was great to meet other colleagues and learn their perspectives from their cultural backgrounds. I thoroughly enjoyed the role play and learned how imperative it is as an Interpreter to not only be a conduit but at times also be a provider of clarity, a cultural broker, and an advocate. Also, it was wonderful to receive the forms that we can translate in our languages and be of further help to our patients. –Shanila Khan
As a manager, I am constantly impressed by our Interpreter’s dedication to their work but, this past Memorial Day weekend, I was blown away by a special group of Interpreters.
One phrase word summed up this group: The Team, The Team, The Team. Simply amazing teamwork practiced by all. Our Deaf Access Team had a crazy week leading up to the Memorial Day weekend. They prepared for the weekend by determining interpreter needs for our inpatients and setting up backup Interpreters “just in case”. Emergency room, new admits, and medical complications just kept rolling in all weekend. In all my years here, I have never seen such a weekend for any language group.
This group of Interpreters had incredible communication amongst themselves. Everyone took on a leadership role when needed. The backup interpreters had backups. The support and positive reinforcement each Interpreter had for one another continued throughout the entire weekend.
One interpreter commented: “. . .still amazed and impressed with how everyone managed to cope with such a torrent of work….cooperation and professionalism in the highest! Brava ladies, brava. . .”
I couldn’t have said it better. These Interpreters probably went through more in one weekend than they have in six months of interpreting. I am so proud of how they conducted themselves. They were efficient, flexible, effective, responsive, empowered . . .
The positive and supportive camaraderie of the Deaf Access team should serve as a role model to other teams. Thank you for everything you did this past holiday weekend and for what you do every day for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients and their families. You embody the Michigan Difference.