Certified Spanish Translator and Interpreter  

The Interpretator

Another example of why family members should not be used as interpreters in health care

Posted by rpospina on February 16, 2015 at 4:05 PM
This is something that many of us have heard before, especially recently with all the attention brought by new proposals for legal reforms by professionals who have seen the negative impact of this practice.


I have witnesed how serious a miscommunication can be in a health care setting without a proper interpreter, but I couldn't help but be surprised at a whole new level when I learned about this case:


On a routine morning, in a reputable health care facility in the Pensacola area, a female patient of foreign nationality – and who did not speak English – was getting ready for her procedure: a tubal ligation. She had been cleared to have the procedure done in a previous appointment, for which her husband served as an interpreter. The day of the procedure, when the provider was getting ready to obtain a signature for the patient's informed consent, she requested the services of a telephone interpreter, in order to provide the patient specific information about the risks, alternatives to the procedure, etc.


When the provider explained this to the patient, the patient's answer was -“But this is not why I came here, that is against my religion”.  Long story short, the patient was brought to have this procedure done under false pretenses by her husband, who wanted her to be sterilized so that they would not have more children, knowing that the patient would not agree to this, due to her religious beliefs. He had her believe she was getting another gynecological procedure done, and he almost got away with it, had it not been by the physician's due diligence of providing a qualified interpreter. What a great catch and a great lesson to be learned by all of us!

10 things anyone who works with an over-the-phone interpreter should know

Posted by rpospina on January 25, 2015 at 4:35 PM

Using the services of a professional over-the-phone interpreter (OPI) has numerous advantages: flexibility to pay for the services as needed, privacy that allows you to have an interpreter while doing a physical examination for a patient, availability 24/7 and on short notice, etc.


Unfortunately, there are many professionals who rely on OPI's to communicate with their limited English proficient clients (LEP) and do not take full advantage of the experience simply because they don't know how to do it. So, here are my two cents about this, from my experiences as an OPI so far:


1. Address the LEP directly. Instead of asking “Interpreter, please ask her for her date of birth” you should simply ask “Ma’am, what is your date of birth?”; professional interpreters are trained to speak in the first person. 


2. You have control of the conversation.  The interpreter's responsibility is to convert what is being said from one language into another exactly as it is being said, not to be the moderator of the conversation. 


3. It is the interpreter's duty to interpret everything that is being said, exactly as it is being said. By everything, I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, literarily. If you use very technical language and the LEP doesn't seem to be understanding your statements, you should take this into consideration and adjust your register (the degree of formality of your vocabulary). This also goes for any side comments (good or bad). 


4. Use acronyms and abbreviations wisely or don't use them at all.  While they can be very useful to communicate industry-specific jargon among colleagues, they can be an interpreter's nightmare; please be considerate and if you will use an [uncommon] acronym or abbreviation make sure that at least the first time you use this term, you indicate what it stands for.


5. Be mindful of your pronunciation and the speed of your speech. Communication over the phone does not come without challenges and it can be even more difficult if you are not mindful of your pronunciation and the overall tone and speed of your messages. If  you have a strong accent, please be mindful of that and articulate as best as you can, keeping in mind that the slower the better.


6. Avoid talking over the interpreter. Let's face it, it's simply rude and most importantly, it can result in omissions of important information and miscommunications.


7. You can request a female or male interpreter and sometimes, you should. This is specially important to handle certain medical calls (gynecology, urology) or calls of a somewhat delicate nature (reports of abuse, psychiatric calls, police intake, etc.) Most companies give you the flexibility to request a female or male interpreter for the comfort of your LEP, so make use of this option when appropriate.


8. If you need to transfer the call, please warm transfer. If you have an OPI and you need to transfer your LEP to another extension, please be considerate and explain to your colleague that you have an LEP with an interpreter on the phone to ensure that the transfer goes smoothly.


9. Take your setting into consideration for sound quality purposes. Make sure that you speak loud enough to be heard through a speaker phone if that's your set-up and inform the interpreter when you will be stepping away from the phone or leaving the room; stop speaking if there are crying babies in the room, if your phone is right by your computer you should know that when you type on a loud keyboard, that's pretty much all the interpreter can hear.


10. A few helpful tips. I'd like to share a few tips that might make a difference and improve your communication with your LEP's through an OPI:


  • When listing numbers, state them digit by digit: “50” as “five, zero” = Good. “50” as “fifty” = Not good.
  • When you are providing a spelling, please try to provide a phonetic spelling for consonants.
  • Keep in mind that OPI's are in remote locations and not familiar with your local street names or facilities. Be considerate and pay special attention when pronouncing these names.


And remember... you should speak THROUGH the interpreter, NOT TO the interpreter.

Do I need a Video or Telephonic Interpreter?

Posted by rpospina on October 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM

Both have a lot in common:


  • Flexibility to provide an interpreter in short-notice.
  • Broad availability to get interpreters for rare, uncommon or very high-demand languages.
  • Usually offered in a per-minute basis, eliminating additional costs of minimum time required for in-person interpreters.


However, when it comes down to the actual interpretation things are a little bit different. As an interpreter whose workload is mainly over the phone and related to the medical field, I'd like to list some situations in which conducting a session through a video platform can be much more accurate and effective:


  • Situations where there are several individuals in the same room. Because that way the interpreter can take note of who said what and make sure that everything that is being said is interpreted accurately.
  • Situations in which there will be many changes (like different people coming in and out of the room)
  • Interpreting for older adults: Because body language and visual queues are specially important for this age group.
  • When long periods of silence will be expected (due to a procedure being done or an emotionally-charged visit) because a phone interpreter would be wondering if the person is still there or if the line was disconnected.
  • Physical therapy (PT) sessions: During these sessions the therapist is giving a set of instructions to the patient to perform exercises and activities for which having a visual of what's going on could be very helpful for the interpreter.
  • Diabetic teachings: Because even though for diabetic teachings a good portion of what it taught is theory about diet, when it comes to teach patients about preparing the syringe or pen to inject insulin, or how to use the glucometer there are so many “turn this up to here”, “move this part down there” and being able to see what is being done is crucial for the interpreter.
  • Occupational therapy sessions: When patients are getting instructions to learn how to get in and out of bed, sit down, stand up or dress themselves.


The list goes on and it can be applied to many different fields but this can give you an idea of what kind of scenarios could be best handled by a video interpreter instead of a telephonic one.

Interested? I can offer video-remote interpretation services through the brand-new Capiche platform which is now part of the renowned STRATUS video interpreting. This platform allows you to reach a video-remote interpreter by simply downloading an app on your smart phone. Also, it gives you the possibility of building a network of your preferred interpreters and establish on-going relationships with them – something highly unlikely with other platforms.

This is the interpreter Yvette speaking

Posted by rpospina on July 28, 2014 at 8:40 PM

I'd like to showcase some of the colleagues that have had an influence in my professional life as an interpreter. Interpreters tend to be somewhat invisible, and because most feel more comfortable communicating verbally, we don't get to read a lot about them online. I have the honor to present Yvette on my first “This is the interpreter _______ speaking”; she has been a mentor and a friend for me since I started interpreting.

Yvette says: 

"I would never imagine loving what I do for the rest of my life but I am so glad I do. I started interpreting as a child back in the day when only VCR's were invented and my sisters and I would interpret the whole movie for my parents. They never missed out on any new releases and it was such an honor to be able to do that for them. When I got hired professionally in the year 2006 I was very honest when they asked me what previous experience I have had, I told them the truth, “just serving as an interpreter for my parents since I was about 8 years old”.


Being about 7 I think that was the age I became fascinated with languages and the meaning of certain words. I remember coming home one day from school in tears since one of my schoolmates called me “hilarious” and me being a bilingual student but mainly speaking Spanish thought that word was offensive. That day my older sister asked me why I was crying and I told her and she just simply laughed and told me the meaning of the word and made me feel silly for crying. From there on I have been fascinated learning different words for certain meanings.


When I was first hired by a professional company I mainly took customer service calls. Later I was trained to take calls specialized in the medical, legal, and insurance fields. I can clearly say medical has been my favorite although some calls have been difficult to get through them; here is an example: I remember this day like if it was yesterday taking this call even having my food on one side just in case it was an easy call. I took it just like if it was any other call; the call was regarding a Spanish speaking father calling the mail order pharmacy to send more medication for his daughter which had a chronic disease and needed the medication right away and was having difficulty since the doctor was out of town, and the medication needed a prior authorization. It was heartbreaking hearing the dad plead to the pharmacist in Spanish “Please if my daughter doesn’t get her medicine she will die!” Hearing him crying on the phone while you can also hear the little girls in the background asking, “what’s wrong daddy? why are you crying?” Those are the type of calls that have made me cry buckets and buckets of tears but still getting through them and taking the next call. It has simply been a dream come true becoming an interpreter and removing those language barriers for others.


One of the things I enjoyed doing while I would interpret was ironing. It is a quiet activity and I would get some house-work done at the same time. The funniest thing that has happened to me while interpreting has definitely been when I fell from my desk while I was interpreting. I was leaning back just relaxing when my chair just broke and I brought down all my notes laptop and everything! I now have the privilege to provide coaching tips to the new interpreters and my best advice has always been enjoy what you do! See your job as valuable as it is providing a service to both the Spanish and English speaking person. Another thing I mention to them is: “At the end of the day pat yourself on the back! Let yourself know what an awesome job you did!”


Hopefully everyone that is an interpreter has loved this experience as much as I have. Thank you for reading!!"

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