1. Interpreters take notes while listening to ensure total recall when relating messages. These are confidential and should be left with the medical professional or destroyed.
2. If the interpreter is delivering simultaneous whispered interpreting (often called chuchotage), try to leave a short catch-up pause every couple of sentences. The interpreter can not translate word-for-word when doing simultaneous interpreting due to differences between language structures. Therefore, they often have to wait until the speaker finishes an idea or clause so that they can reformulate the idea adequately in the other language.
3. If the interpreter is working consecutively, finish your thought before stopping. Interpreters are equipped with note taking skills and memory techniques that will allow them to recall the entire message. Breaking the idea up could distort the message.
4. Please always allow the interpreter to complete their interpretation. The vital information may be at the end.
5. If you wish to confirm understanding, you can ask the interpreter to ask the patient to repeat back key information. The technique of reading back information is an opportunity to find evidence of omission or slight misunderstandings as well as making sure the patient truly understands what is going on, and is not just nodding his or her head, just as you would do with an English speaking patient.
6. Don’t be surprised if an interpreter asks you to slow down or repeat critical information, such as medication names and doses. When using numbers, it is very useful to say the number twice, as the interpreter has to use a different cognitive process to interpret numbers. This also ensures accuracy.
7. Please remember that an interpreter is a specialist and specific to relaying meaning across language and culture. They are not there to replace other staff members e.g. chaperone, accompanying a patient to X-ray, etc.
8. After the patient visit, it is preferable to debrief with the interpreter. Taking a few minutes to obtain feedback from the interpreter about his or her impression of the patient’s effort to communicate his or her thoughts, use of language, and ability to provide clear, rational responses can be very helpful.
9. Remember, an interpreter is not a machine! They are humans with human emotions and can have bad days like everyone else. In the unlikely event that your interpreter is not up to par on a particular occasion, you can discuss it with them and/or the company that you booked them with.
10. Please be aware that however professional your interpreter is, there may have been elements of the interaction that they found upsetting. Since both of you have a duty to confidentially, a short debrief with you would, in some circumstances, be very helpful. Interpreters, just like other medical professionals, can experience vicarious trauma.