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Sign Language Studies
American Annals of the Deaf
New Approaches to Interpreter
Interpreting During a Medical Emergency at
Note: this role play is based on authentic materials and empirical observations
Divide students into groups of three. Assign them roles (patientís father,
pediatrician, and interpreter) and hand them the prompt cards. There will be one
card for the doctor, one for the father, and one for the interpreter. The cards
will contain a description of the situation and the type of speaker to play.
Present this activity to the students: ďMr. Loretoís son swallowed some toxic
product. He is now in the ER explaining the situation to the pediatrician.Ē Give
the interpreter ten minutes to go over notes, the case, case questions, etc.
During that time, speakers can plan how they will behave, the tone they will
use, and what they want to say. Then, have the speakers engage in a
conversation, each in their own language, and let the interpreter do her or his
- Pediatrician: You are a monolingual pediatrician working at the ER. You
are very patient and kind with kids, but not necessarily with parents. Your
time is limited. You sympathize with the father, but you also have many
patients to attend to. You start to get tired of his complaints.
- Patientís father: You are a monolingual father. Your three-year-old has
swallowed some detergent. You desperately drive him to the closest ER. They
make you wait. The nurse is a little rude. You explain all of this to the
doctor before you actually answer his questions about what happened. You talk
a lot, you donít wait for your turn, and you manage to upset the doctor with
- Interpreter: you are about to facilitate communication between a patientís
father and a pediatrician in the ER. The patient swallowed a toxic product.
There were no interpreters available in the ER. You are not a staff member,
and you were called in form a nearby interpreting agency.
While each group is working, you can ask the monolingual speakers to pay special
attention to the interpreterís performance. Define it broadly, so that they not
only focus on the information processing or linguistic skills, but also so they
note the sociocultural and interpersonal skills. After the groups are done,
facilitate a discussion where students can reflect on the successful and less
successful roles in this activity. Ask for suggestions on how to improve what
was less successful. Empower students by having them reflect on strategies. You
will probably want to compile on a transparency a list of strategies that have
been covered by this case.