Interpreter Small Talk

Interpreter Small Talk

Japanese_dialects-enDid you know that ASL has over 100 signs for “seizure”? They recommend ASL Interpreters to engage in small talk with their patients to figure out what register the patient uses. Hearing this reminded me of possibly the biggest gaffe of my professional career as a medical interpreter.

You see, I am from Hiroshima, Japan. Japan has many distinct regional dialects/accents, and Hiroshima is one of the major ones. I, however, can hide it fairly well. I speak the “proper” standard Japanese when interpreting.

However, for about oh six years or so, I was interpreting the word “bruise” as “aoji.” It never created problems and it never occurred to me that it could be Hiroshima dialect becuase I was convinced it was standard Japanese. When I found out that it wasn’t standard Japanese, I asked my family about the word, and they also couldn’t believe it wasn’t standard Japanese until we did a Google search. The results from the search were as follows: “one of the words many Hiroshima natives believe to be standard Japanese.”

Sure, I’ve interpreted for many patients using different words for “bruise.” But honestly, I thought they were making a social gaffe, when all this time it was I who was making the social gaffe!

Do you have any words like that?


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