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American Annals of the Deaf

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New Approaches to Interpreter Education

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culture can the interpreter broker? With whose culture is the interpreter familiar: that of the healthcare organization or the patient? Healthcare interpreting students need to be exposed to these sociocultural aspects of their practice. Most importantly, HIE needs to account for them, and this means that HIE should provide time for reflection on these areas which are as essential to forming well-rounded professionals in the field as the analytical or information processing skills which generally constitute the core of the curriculum.

Healthcare Interpreting Education: Beyond Across-Language and Language-Specific Possibilities

HIE may also include instruction both across languages and in language-specific courses. Some of the instruction presented across languages might involve introductory courses to general aspects of interpreting, such as public speaking, active listening, memory enhancement, note-taking techniques, and overviews of interpretation as a profession (professional associations, ethics, certifications, working with interpretation organizers, etc.). In these introductory courses, students learn about interpreting and learn foundational skills necessary for its practice.

Instruction in language-specific courses deals with the development of skills and practice that require working intensively in the two languages of the students. For example, students learn strategies to help them paraphrase or enhance their current language abilities. They further develop presentation and public speaking skills in the target language and learn how to slide messages up and down a register scale to target their renditions to a variety of audiences.

Beyond across-language and language-specific courses, interpreting students need opportunities to discuss boundaries. Reflection opportunities need to be built into courses so that students understand this component as an integral part of being professionals, rather than as a search for one’s own shortcoming. Sometimes the limits are due to the topic of the interaction. For example, if an interpreter is called upon to interpret an unfamiliar topic, it is her or his responsibility to ask to be excused rather than do a poor job.

Other times, the limits are imposed by the relationship of the interpreter to either the topic or the person for whom the service is needed. For example, an interpreter that has serious prejudices about chiropractic treatment may not be the ideal person to assist a minority language speaker during a visit to the chiropractor. Or in the event that the interpreter is an acquaintance of a parent who has been diagnosed with AIDS, and whose case is going to be discussed between the physician and the parents, he or she may need to be excused if his or her presence compromises the information that needs to be discussed during the conference. Knowing one’s own limits constitutes part of an ethical professional behavior. Analysis of sample case studies brought into the classroom can illustrate these points without having negative impacts on students’ self-esteem or motivation.

HIE: Suggested Tenets

Before looking specifically at the course components of HIE, in this section, I lay down some basic concepts that could be considered while designing curriculum. I would also like to suggest branching out to relevant fields such as general education, bilingualism, second-language acquisition, health education, and cross-cultural communication to lay out some principles for HIE.

Basic Principles

Ideally, HIE is based on principles of teaching that are tailored to the specifics of the educational task at hand (i.e., healthcare interpreting). These principles of language learning (adapted from Brown 2001, 54–90) navigate a continuum


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