Interested in Becoming a Medical Interpreter?

Like many fields in interpretation, medical interpretation is a challenging, but a rewarding field. You are the voice of the patient who would otherwise not be able to communicate with the doctor. We understand that speaking with a healthcare professional can be complicated, even in English. Fully communicating the diagnosis, prescriptions, and lab work, and all the other medical terminology is complex. Because we are dealing with such sensitive topics, medical interpreters need to be prepared, and up-to-date with the newest findings in medicine.

There are two agencies that certify medical interpreters.

The first is the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI). There are certificates specific to Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin speakers, as well as a non-language specific certificate. To be eligible to take the exam for certifications, interpreters must complete a 40-hour training. This training can be done online such as at the Medical Interpreting Training School. Testing is offered year round, and it is a computer-based, multiple choice exam. Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin speakers must also pass an oral examination to complete their certifications.

The other agency is The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). The Spanish medical interpreters at FLS have all chosen to be certified through NBCMI. Certification is available in Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese. For interpreters of other languages, NBCMI does not offer a certification as they are committed to certifying interpreters by passing both the written and the oral exam. NBCMI certification also requires a 40-hour training, which can be completed online or in-person. The listing of their approved training courses are listed here.

These certifications distinguish your abilities as a communication professional, and it will give you an advantage as you pursue your career in medical interpretation.

Why Use a Translation Memory Software?

In 1979, when FLS opened its doors for business, translation was done by hand. There were no electronic dictionaries or the Internet to look up specialized terms. Over the years, FLS has collected a number of specialized dictionaries from technology, trade, medicine, aerospace engineering, and so on. While these dictionaries are still valuable tools in the field of translation, memory software has improved tremendously and translators have become more productive, consistent, and precise.

Imagine translating a document with complex, specialized terms or phrases. You looked up the English translation once, so when the same term or phrase appears in the document again, you can use the same translation. In the days of type writers, this meant going back to where you wrote the translation and typing it again. With translation memory software, the computer remembers the word or phrase you used and it appears as a suggested translation.

Let’s imagine for a minute that you’re translating a medical article from English to Italian. The phrase, “antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity” appears. You checked in a specialized dictionary that the translation is “citotossicità mediata da cellule dipendente da anticorpi.” The next time you translate a sentence with the same phrase, the software remembers what you used before.

There is still need for a human eye to make sure the term is being used in the right context. This can significantly improve your productivity!

The popular memory software that translators prefer are SDL Trados, MemoQ, and Memsource but there are others as well.

We’d like to hear from experienced translators… What is your favorite memory software and what features do you love about it?

Translating and Interpreting Humor

Imagine you are an interpreter at a business conference. As an ice breaker, the American company representative makes a joke to lighten up the scene. Everyone in the room laughs—except for your clients who are waiting for you to interpret. But will the joke be funny once it’s in the target language?

Translating or interpreting humor is complex. Should you explain the pun when the client has limited understanding of the original language? Could the joke be inappropriate in your client’s culture?

Here are 2 helpful tips to train your brain to translate/interpret jokes.

Familiarize yourself with the comedy of the target language/audience. There is no need to travel to another country! Standup comedies in a variety of languages are available on video streaming sites. You may find that while it’s common to joke about politicians in the United States, it’s not common or even inappropriate to bring up politics in a joke in the targeted audience.

Familiarize yourself with children’s humor. How would you translate a knock-knock joke? Or a pun that plays on the words? Perhaps there is a standard joke in the target language that will give the same effect as a knock-knock joke. But unless you are familiar with the children’s humor in the target language, you will not be able to quickly communicate the idea. Children’s books are a good source to study to understand the humor.

As the interpreter or the translator, part of your work is to be the cultural broker. When a literal translation is not funny, it is also part of your work to explain why it is funny to English speakers.