Introduction to Healthcare for Spanish-speaking Interpreters and Translators
A Book Review by Cynthia E. Roat, MPH
Publisher: John Benjamins, 2015
Number of pages: 388 pages
ISBN: 978 90 272 1222 1 (paperback)
Available for purchase from John Benjamins Publishing at https://benjamins.com/#catalog/books/z.193/main.
Interpreting is rather like scuba diving. With just a bit of protective equipment, we interpreters plunge for a short time into an often alien world, where a mistake can be very serious, not only for ourselves but for the other divers who are depending on us to understand their surroundings. And as all who dive, we interpreters find this daily foray into a new environment fascinating, exhilarating, but also at times, challenging. One of the high-risk dive sites into which we venture often is the sea of healthcare, where the strange whale-song of medical dialogue, the often incomprehensible behavior of local denizens such as doctors, and the tricky currents of the healthcare system itself require special knowledge and skill to navigate successfully. Did you ever wish for a dive manual for unique world of healthcare? Well, here’s a first-rate one, from linguist, RN and interpreter trainer, Dr. Ineke Crezee of New Zealand.
Introduction to Healthcare for Spanish-speaking Interpreters and Translators, the updated version of Dr. Crezee’s original 1997 volume and the Americanized version of the 2013 Introduction to Healthcare for Interpreters and Translators, is an introduction to the complex world and vocabulary of health care, with a special view to the needs of interpreters and, to a lesser degree, translators. This book will increase your health literacy and improve your understanding of what is going on around you as you interpret for a healthcare encounter.
Content[pullquote align=”right” color=”#4d648d”]“Interpreting is rather like scuba diving… did you ever wish for a dive manual to the world of health care?”[/pullquote]
Part 1 of this book presents a quick overview of some issues in interpreting: a bit about the profession, the skills and knowledge that interpreters need to function well in healthcare settings, a discussion of the importance of understanding culture in order to fully understand language, and an introduction to the structure of medical terminology. The section provides a good review for interpreters who have been (or are being) introduced to these topics in basic training.
The real treasure of this book, however, is found in parts 2 and 3. Part 2 takes the reader on a tour of the Western healthcare system, providing a map of the world of primary care, specialty care, inpatient care and emergency care. Here Dr. Crezee introduces the reader to the different professionals who work in these settings and to the common protocols and procedures in each. Especially valuable are the listings of likely questions that interpreters can expect in various healthcare interactions, providing interpreters with a wonderful opportunity for practice and preparation. This section also includes a special treatment of obstetrics, neonatal care, pediatrics, speech therapy, mental health and oncology.
Part 3 is an introduction to the many specialty areas of health care. Each chapter focuses on information specific to a particular specialty: Latin and Greek roots, anatomy, physiology, treating professionals, common disorders, medications and procedures. This approach is especially useful in familiarizing interpreters to the healthcare culture, as this is how medical professionals think about their work (“I’m a gastroenterologist”), how medical centers map out their physical plant (“The appointment will take place in the GI clinic”), and how interpreting assignments are often identified (“We have a 5:00 appointment available in GI”).
While the treatment is not exhaustive, Dr. Crezee manages to cover most of the principle specialty areas in this book, including: neurology, cardiology, pulmonology, hematology, orthopedics, muscles and motor systems, audiology, ophthalmology, immunology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, urology/nephrology, and both male and female reproductive systems.
Clear line illustrations add to the value of this third section. The final pages of this book include an index, making it easy to locate specific health information, as well as a list of useful websites for further study.
I foresee this book being extremely useful to at least three groups of readers:[pullquote align=”right” color=”#4d648d”]“This book should become one of the default texts for any healthcare interpreter class, reiterating, complementing, and expanding on the in-class work on basic interpreting and health-specific topics.”[/pullquote]
- New interpreters preparing to work in healthcare encounters.
This book will provide interpreters who are new to health care a real “bird’s-eye view” of the ocean into which they are diving. It will help them understand how to navigate the system, recognize the roles of the staff with whom they interact, predict some of the common questions they will be interpreting, and understand the basics of the health problems that patients and providers will be discussing. All of this will lead to more accurate interpretation, which, of course, is the goal of all interpreter training.
- Experienced interpreters needing a quick introduction to a specific specialty area before going to an encounter.
Even experienced healthcare interpreters may discover that they have been called to interpret in a specialty or practice area that is new to them. In these cases, this book will provide a valuable introduction to the new specialty area, in a reasonable amount of time, with just the right level of detail.
- Interpreter trainers looking for a text to amplify their treatment of healthcare.
This book should become one of the default texts for any healthcare interpreter class, reiterating, complementing, and expanding on the in-class work on basic interpreting and health-specific topics. The lists of common diagnostic questions can become valuable material for practice interpreting, and teaching students to use books such as this one for continued learning should be part of all interpreting courses.
Whether you are a student of healthcare interpreting/translation, a working healthcare interpreter/translator, or an interpreter educator, I recommend this book to you. For only $39 for the paperback version, this book is an excellent value. And like a good map of a coral reef in the hands of a scuba diver, it will help you know where you are going, what you can expect when you get there, and how to appropriately interpret what you see to the other divers you bring with you.
Cynthia E. Roat is a national consultant on language access in health care. In addition to training interpreters and interpreter instructors, she assists healthcare administrators improve their language access programs. Ms. Roat is the author of a wide array of key resources in the field, and her book Healthcare Interpreting in Small Bites is used as an ancillary text in various interpreter training programs. She is a founding member of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) and is known nationally as an engaging speaker, a knowledgeable resource, and an energetic advocate for language access in general.