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In-Person Interpreting

In-Person Interpreting Headline

As the historical core of what we do, In-Person interpreting is traditionally the most requested form of interpreting service. In-Person interpreting allows the interpreter to be physically present at the doctor's office or the courthouse, for example. While it is not always necessary, there is no substitute for having an interpreter present in-person. Interpreters are legally required to thoroughly and precisely render a message from one language into the other while preserving the register with which the message was communicated. Unless the interpreter is present in person, there is simply no other way to ensure nothing is "lost in translation."

In all communication context is critical. Physically being present for a conversation allows the interpreter to identify misunderstandings. The interpreter is the de facto expert in both the source language and the target language. One reason artificial intelligence will never replace humans as interpreters: human intelligence goes beyond analysis to include understanding. And understanding allows humans to grasp far more effectively and efficiently when there is a misunderstanding between two parties.

Interpreter Core Values

All qualified professional interpreting work is grounded in the core values of beneficence, fidelity and respect for the importance of culture (National Code of Ethics for Interpreters in Health Care: The core duty of the interpreters is to make possible communication between two parties that do not speak the same language and frequently have very different personal and cultural backgrounds.

In real time, the interpreter must help these two parties navigate these differences in pursuit of the whole purpose of the encounter: the well-being of the person seeking or receiving the service. This puts tremendous ethical responsibility on the interpreter—they are frequently the only person present that understands completely what is transpiring in the encounter. As such, “Both the patient and the provider have to be able to trust that the interpreter will not abuse this power. They need to trust that the interpreter will transmit faithfully what it is they have to say to each other” (MMIA and EDC, 1996). They have to believe this will be done with complete confidentiality and with no interference whatsoever, regardless of beliefs. (National Code of Ethics for Interpreters in Health Care)

Professional interpreters do not simply perform a literal interpretation. Interpreters must always render a message precisely from the source language into the target language while maintaining the register with which the message was communicated. But, if there are strong dissimilarities between providers’ and patients’ assumptions, for example, a literal interpretation can be a hindrance to communication. It can even be dangerous. In these instances an interpreter’s role becomes more strategic. They focus on, as transparently and un-obtrusively as possible, helping the participants themselves surface and uncover their respective hidden assumptions. By so doing they empower the patient to improve the quality of healthcare they receive and they allow the provider to better understand their patient. They foster what is referred to within the interpreting profession as communicative autonomy. An interpreter’s role goes beyond literal interpretation—it is about ensuring patients have communicate autonomy (Medical Interpreting Standards of Practice – International Medical Interpreters Association). It is about helping ensure patients are responsible for and in control of what is communicated

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