Using a Professional Interpreter Vs Staff or a Family Member

shutterstock_219385468 cropped.jpgAs both a professional interpreter, as well as a family member of a non-English-speaker, let me provide insight as to why using a professional interpreter is always best.

Having been an interpreter for the last 12 years, I have had countless conversations with both service providers as well as patients/customers, regarding the importance of a professional interpreter. In these conversations there seems to be a recurring question that comes up from the service provider perspective, “Why should I pay for a professional interpreter when I can get a family member to do it for free?” Allow me to share with you a personal experience.

Being married to a non-native English speaker, I often accompany my spouse to her various appointments, whether they be medical or whatever is needed at that moment. At these appointments, I catch myself not acting as I would if I was working, but instead I act as a family member (Imagine that?!). Instead of working as a bridge to help fill in the gap between the provider and the recipient, in this case my wife, I tend to work more as a filter. I unconsciously end up interjecting my own thoughts as to what the issue might be and I don’t necessarily end up interpreting all the information that is said from one party to another. I, in my own mind, determine what is important or relevant and only pass along that information. That is one of the most common issues that arise when using a family member to interpret instead of using a professionally trained interpreter.

If you decide to try to use a bilingual staff member you’ll not only run into these types of problems, but even more importantly is the issue of confidentiality. Professional interpreters are educated on the HIPAA rules and regulations and are typically covered under their agency confidentiality agreements.

With a professionally trained interpreter you can rest assured that these individuals have been trained to respond in a way that withholds their opinion, and transmits an impartial message. They are also trained to interpret exactly what is said, and not omit “unimportant” information, so that the recipient gets complete and accurate information. In short, the use of untrained interpreters, bilingual staff, or family members increases your odds of making mistakes, missing information, violating confidentiality, misinformation leading to running more tests, and all in all just worse outcomes. Professionally trained interpreters are more likely to increase patient or client satisfaction, improve adherence and outcomes as well as the reduction of adverse events. So, for everybody’s benefit, don’t use staff, friends or family members, use a professional.

Learn more about Using Interpreting Services.

When you need a professionally trained interpreter or translator, contact Rapport International.  Rapport International is a full-service interpreting and translation company.  We provide high-quality, professional in-person interpreting in Lincoln and Omaha Nebraska and surrounding areas, as well as in Massachusetts.  Translation services are available worldwide.  Please contact us for assistance and guidance with your interpreting and translation needs.

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Categories: Quality, Spoken Communications


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