The Advantages and Disadvantages of Interpreters

Last Updated On: February 17, 2023


What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of using an Interpreter?

An interpreter isn’t a new profession but it has become increasingly more important as people and cultures mix and move between countries where there is no common language. It takes time to learn a language and often if a traveler is only visiting a country for a short period of time spending considerable time learning a new language may simply be not practical as far as setting the time aside to do so. However, when it comes to integrating new migrants into a country who haven’t yet got fluent in the new country’s language, there needs to be an intermediary to help that new migrant settle and gain the fruits of the new country. The role of an interpreter is not perfect and it has both advantages and disadvantages.

When an Interpreter is Most Often Required

The times when an interpreter service is most required is when services need to be accessed, properties need to be purchased and communication between people such as the police and those who run the court system such as judges and jurors is required. Overall, an interpreter is most required in the following situations:

  1. When health care is required and communication between the provider and the recipient needs to be spot on.
  2. When a person requires assistance from the police or the police require information.
  3. When a person needs to attend court where the court language is not the same as that spoken by the person in question.
  4. When a migrant’s children need to attend school in their new host country.

These are times when a complete understanding between the person with limited language ability and certain situations needs to be faultless otherwise certain actions may be taken which are not in the interest of the person who has limited ability to speak and understand the language needed at the time.


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    What are the Duties of the Health care Interpreter?

    The health care interpreter’s roles and responsibilities are varied, but should include the following:

    • being a good listener.
    • talking slowly to a person with limited English proficiency.
    • ensuring the language used is easy for both parties to understand
    • making sure the message provided by the healthcare professional is put across successfully.
    • making sure the recipient of the message understands the information provided.

    Quite simply the interpreter’s roles and responsibilities are to ensure that both the healthcare provider and the person receiving the healthcare understand each other so no mistakes are made with the provision of healthcare. There are both advantages and disadvantages to using interpreters in healthcare.

    Benefits of using an Interpreter in Health Care:

    When considering what the benefits of using an interpreter in health care are it is important to realize how a doctor or nurse would be able to communicate without the assistance of a healthcare interpreter. It would all take place by using signs and symbols that could be misinterpreted. The main benefits of an interpreter in health care are:

      • ensuring the right message is conveyed between the doctor/nurse and the individual who is receiving healthcare;
      • ensuring the healthcare provider knows of any drug allergies the individual may have.
      • ensuring the individual understands drug dosages for prescribed medications
      • ensuring the individual returns for further treatment if this is required.

    Disadvantages of Interpreters in Healthcare

    Even though in general the advantages of using an interpreter in healthcare situations far outweighs the disadvantages care has to be taken when transmitting messages between two sets of people. One of the main disadvantages of over-communicating person to person-in a common language is that the interpreter may at some point misinterpret the message that needs to be transmitted. This could be quite devastating if it involved the safe use of a drug or a medical device. This is the sort of misinterpretation which would rarely happen if the communicators both spoke the same language.

    Another disadvantage of using an interpreter is that the person requiring the healthcare may not fully trust someone that he or she doesn’t know well. When discussing medical matters with someone who the person knows confidentiality wouldn’t be considered such an issue and there would be more trust when communicating on sensitive matters.

    It is imperative for both the healthcare recipient and the healthcare provider that perfect understanding takes place when healthcare is being provided. Just one error in interpreting a message could be devastating to both the recipient of the message and the person sending the message.

    Overall, the role of a healthcare interpreter is to ensure spoken communication takes place between two or more individuals who don’t speak the same language. This quite simply means transferring a message from one language into another language in such a way that the intended meaning is understood as much as possible by the person requiring an interpreter.
    The healthcare interpreter needs to be objective and unbiased when transferring the required message. The interpreter isn’t primarily responsible for the meaning of words or messages but is just responsible for making sure that all the words that are said are accurately and objectively communicated in the required language.

    When an interpreter is taken on to do a job, using a friend or relative is the last resort as they may not be able to be completely objective when conveying the required message. This could happen if the message to be translated contains sensitive material that needs to be translated but the interpreter doesn’t necessarily have the confidence, to be honest, if it involves a relative or friend. This mistake wouldn’t, of course, happen with a qualified objective healthcare interpreter.

    The advantages of using an interpreter in the healthcare context far outweigh any disadvantages, as long as the interpreter is objective and accurate when doing the interpretation job. Ensuring the interpreter’s roles and responsibilities are maintained while doing the interpreting job means there will be a successful outcome for all.

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