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American Annals of the Deaf

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New Approaches to Interpreter Education

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Appendix A

Interpreting During a Medical Emergency at the ER

Note: this role play is based on authentic materials and empirical observations (Angelelli 2001).

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.

For example:

  • 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 your complaints.
  • 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.
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 job.

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.


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