The Glossary


Ad Hoc Interpreter: An untrained person who is called upon to interpret, such as a family member interpreting for her parents, a bilingual staff member pulled away from other duties to interpret, or a self declared bilingual in a hospital waiting-room who volunteers to interpret. Also called a chance interpreter or lay interpreter.

Advocacy: In the health care interpreter setting, “advocacy” is an action taken by an interpreter intended to further the interests of, or rectify a problem encountered by one of the parties, to the interpreting session, usually the patient.

Bilingual: A term describing a person who is proficient in two languages. Fluency in both languages, the most basic of the qualifications of a competent interpreter, by itself does not ensure the ability to interpret.

Consecutive Interpreting: The mode of interpreting whereby the interpreter relays a message in a sequential manner after the speaker has paused or has completed a thought. In other words, the interpreter waits until the speaker has finished the utterance before rendering it in the other language.

Cultural Competency: A continuous process of seeking cultural sensitivity, knowledge and skills to work effectively with individuals and families from diverse cultural communities and with their culturally diverse providers.

Cultural Responsiveness: A measure of the knowledge, skill and sensitivity of health care professionals and their organizations to become aware of the individual and systemic needs of culturally diverse populations, and their subsequent receptivity and openness in developing, implementing and evaluating culturally appropriate individual and institutional responses to these needs.

First-person Interpreting: The use of the direct utterances of each speaker by the interpreter as though the interpreter was the voice of the person speaking in the language of the listener. For example, if the patient says, “My stomach hurts,” the interpreter says (in the listener’s language), “My stomach hurts,” and not “She says her stomach hurts,”

Health Care Interpreter: A health care interpreter is one who is qualified to interpret in the health care setting. In addition to being bilingual they must be knowledgeable about medical terminology how to work in the health care setting and the importance of doctor-patient confidentiality

Interpreter: An individual who mediates spoken or signed communication between people speaking different languages without adding, omitting, or distorting meaning or editorializing. The objective of the professional interpreter is for the complete transfer of the thought behind the utterance in one language into an utterance in a second language.

Interpreting: The process of understanding and analyzing a spoken or signed message and re-expressing that message faithfully, accurately and objectively in another language, taking the cultural and social context into account .The purpose of interpreting is to enable communication between two or more individuals who do not speak each other’s languages.

Limited English Proficiency (LEP): ‘‘Limited English Proficient’’ or “LEP” means a limited ability or inability to speak, read, write or understand the English language at a level that permits the person to interact effectively with health care providers or social service agencies.

Interpreting Mode: Interpreting involving different formats and differing ways of interacting with the two parties during the interpreting interaction. Modes include: Consecutive, Simultaneous or Summary. They can be either done proximally (on-site and in-person) or remotely (via telephone, video or computer). The standard mode for health care interpreting is consecutive; summary mode is not an acceptable mode in health care interpreting.

Professional Interpreter: An individual, who has been trained and tested, adheres to a code of professional ethics and standard protocols and is paid to interpret.

Remote Interpreting: Interpreting provided by an interpreter who is not in the presence of the speakers ,e.g., interpreting via telephone or videoconferencing.

Interpreter Role: The health care interpreter, in working toward positive health outcomes for the patient, takes on a variety of roles, depending on the circumstances as required. Roat calls the shifting between intervening roles the incremental intervention model (Roat & et. al., 1999). Among possible roles, the interpreter functions as “message converter” (often called the “conduit” or “message passing” role); the “message clarifier,” the “cultural clarifier” and the “patient advocate.” The interpreter should be aware, at all times, that the most appropriate role is the least invasive role that will assure effective communication and care.

Simultaneous Interpreting: Converting a speaker or signer’s message into another language while the speaker or signer continues to speak or sign.

Target Language: The language of the listener; the language into which an utterance is interpreted.

Translation: The conversion of a written text into a written text in a second language corresponding to and equivalent in meaning to the text in the first language. (Note that translation refers to written to written conversion while interpreting refers to the conversion of spoken or verbal communication from one language into a second language.)

Translator: A person who converts written texts from one language into a text in a second language with an equivalent meaning, especially one who does so professionally.

Transparency/Transparent Interpreting: The idea that the interpreter keeps both parties in the interpreting session fully informed of what is happening, who is speaking and what the interpreter is doing, is known as “transparency.”