Interpreting agencies are crucial in breaking down the language barrier for customers as they can save customers’ time, money as well as offer a wider range of language solutions when they are needed. To find interpreting agencies are easier than ever, but finding the right one is where the problem lies.
Nowadays, to choose the right interpreting agencies can be tricky as people do not know the competent ones or which ones to opt for. Even the big players in the industry are making mistakes that can be costly for the customers’ life.
Recently, a client invited me at very last minute to help with the language barrier at the GP practice because of the following two things.
First, interpreting agencies when book an interpreter rarely turn up to the appointments. Therefore, she often postpones appointments due to the interpreter absence.
Second, not assigning her a native interpreter. For instance, instead of assigning her a Portuguese interpreter from Portugal, interpreting agencies (will not mention due to confidentially issues) tend to book Brazilian Portuguese Interpreter. This is a negative impact on the client due to the language differences between the two languages. As a result, the client tends to struggle to understand the interpreter. Even though there are similarities between the two languages, one needs to know both to identify them. For example, bicha in native Portuguese means (Que). However, in Brazilian Portuguese means (Gay).
Upon getting to Gp practice also arrived the interpreter. Then the client was introduced to the interpreter and waited to be called. She turned around to me and asked me to follow her to make sure the exact message was passed to her. So, when she was called, the three of us went to see the Doctor.
The interpretation starts, and it was noticeable that the interpreter was missing out to report to the patient what the doctor was saying. At a point in the conversation, the doctor said to the patient not to stop taking the medicine she was taking, but the interpreter said to the patient not to stop taking ‘pilula’ which means ‘oral contraceptive pill’ in English. This was very risky and I had to step in to tell the client the correct information and felt bad for the interpreter but could not let the patient down by not reporting the message accurately. However, the dangerous part is that the client is over 60 years and was not taking any contraception. The interpreter could have caused something else with the wrong information and I felt bad not only for the interpreter but also for the clients during the entire session.
When the session ended, the Doctor thanked me for making everything clear to the patient. The doctor asked if I was an interpreter too and I said yes. As a result, the doctor asked to leave my name and ID number, so she could request me to do Portuguese interpretation next time. As a result, I told the doctor that I do not work for the same company that the other interpreter works for.
On our way home, the interpreter started talking to her to find a bit more of her so I could understand what went wrong but I obviously did not disclose this to her. During the conversation, I did not only found out a bit more about the interpreter but also discovered that she was a Spanish interpreter and could speak Brazilian Portuguese a little bit but lacks fluency in the Portuguese language. This is fine, but for a healthcare setting appointment, this could have put the patient’s life at risk.
To prevent this from happening, the below 10 tips are recommended and should be followed when booking an interpreter with interpreting agencies:
1- Identify what language you need support with
2- Setting, styles and ways of engaging with interpreters
3- Sex of the interpreter
4- Topic and type of appointment
5- Make sure the interpreting agencies understand, so they can address your needs
6- Give as much information you can to the interpreting agencies.
7- If possible, ask how they are going to deliver the services
8- Ensure that the interpreter is familiar with the field and has got enough experience
9- Make sure that the interpreter understands the culture he/she is interpreting
10- Make sure the interpreter is assigned according to their expertise
By adopting these tips, you may be able to prevent a lot of problems happening and consequently communicate with your client more effectively. The importance of finding interpreting agencies that listen to your concerns in order to address them is mandatory.