2.4 Blackbelt

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Family Members as Interpreters:

The following videos demonstrate some of the challenges you may encounter when working with a family member as an interpreter. Not only is the father speaking on behalf of the patient, but he is also withholding important information by not transmitting what is being said during the medical interview.

Family members can play an important role, just not as interpreters.

Clip 1:

Read the transcript

There are many challenges you many encounter when working with a family member as an interpreter. In this clip the father is speaking on behalf of the patient.

Doctor: “What’s your favourite subject in school?”

Father: “She likes mathematics”

In this second clip, the father is also withholding important information by not transmitting what is being said during the medical interview. Generally, using family members as interpreters should be avoided.

Doctor: “Can you ask her if the pill her friends are taking is called ‘birth control’, just so I know what medication she’s reffering to”.

Father: “I know her friends, all of her friends, they’re all good girls, they don’t use any birth control pills.”

Duration: 43 seconds

Case 1 – Lost in Translation (Revisited)

Photo of a mother and her daughter.
Photo: Courtesy of The Reception House, Ottawa, ON
Not actual patient

Impressed with Mrs. A’s commitment to wellness and pre-natal care, the attending resident family physician did not feel that Mrs. A was an unfit mother but was unable to influence the assessment process and the case was taken to court.

During court, Mrs. A’s son continued to act as the interpreter, and the court recommended the infant, and the child protection agency and placed into a foster home.

Prompted by Mrs. A’s deep distress over the outcome, the resident physician brought this case to the attention of an interdisciplinary team at a local refugee health clinic.

The refugee health team brought Mrs. A and her son to the clinic, and using optimal interpretation techniques, it became evident that the son had not been accurately interpreting for his mother. Upon this discovery, Mrs. A, until then withdrawn and quiet, came to life as she suddenly realized that she had the right to fight for the guardianship of her newborn daughter.

Once a qualified interpreter was provided by the Sierra Leonean community, the process to recover Mrs. A’s daughter began. Her hearing deficit was addressed with a hearing aid. Six months later and after several court hearings, Mrs. A and her daughter were reunited.