Connections & Similarities – Observations from a Spanish Interpreter

Connections & Similarities – Observations from a Spanish Interpreter

A few months ago, I was invited me to take a class, ASL Medical Interpreting – Basic Skills (recently renamed Foundations of Medical Interpreting), taught by Christa Moran and Andi Chumley.

Christa and Andi designed the class especially for Sign Language interpreters, as the Bridging the Gap class that we offer for spoken language interpreting is not geared towards the special needs of our deaf patients. I was to be one of the first non-ASL interpreters to take the class and would be evaluating whether the class would be beneficial for interpreters of spoken foreign languages. I was excited that they chose me to be their “guinea pig” but have to admit I was a bit skeptical, envisioning myself sitting in a quiet room with everybody but me signing. I was assured that wouldn’t be the case, and it wasn’t.

Christa and Andi thought I’d find a lot of similarities between the deaf and the Spanish cultures. I was again skeptical, but at the same time intrigued.

After taking the class, I have to agree. Both communities are “small,” tightly knit communities that tend to socialize together, but at the same time desire a bit of privacy. They have their own cultural beliefs about medicine that may differ from those of the medical staff and need us be the “cultural broker” to “Bridge the Gap” (wink, wink). Both have a way of greeting (Latin’s kiss, deaf hug) that may seem overly affectionate to the casual observer, leading medical staff to read more into the professional relationship between the patient and the Interpreter.

Before I started interpreting for Interpreter Services, I worked as a scheduler at the Traverwood office for a year. During that year I took 3 classes: Medical Interpreting for Spanish Speakers, Bridging the Gap, and Medical Terminology and Body Systems. These classes gave me a wealth of knowledge and techniques, but since I had very little medical interpreting experience when I took them, everything I learned was to be useful in future situations. I have often thought about going back and repeating one of the classes just as a refresher for all of the vast training I had for this career before I started working in the field.

This class served as that refresher. It helped put everything I had previously learned into the context of a real situation, as opposed to a “what if”. While the class was similar to Bridging the Gap in many ways, it was different in many others and I don’t consider it as a class that one would necessarily take instead of Bridging the Gap. But then again, I love taking classes. I take them so I can become a better interpreter, grow as a professional in my field, and have that “calm confidence” we learn about in class so that my patients can be more at ease in what can be some of the most private and stressful moments of their lives.


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