• Professional interpretation provides effective communication and a climate of respect.
  • Even patients who seem to be able to communicate in Basic English may have limited understanding of medical terminology. Technical language and other aspects of health care exacerbate non-fluency.
  • Patients must fully understand their treatment plans if they are to be active and compliant participants in their care.
  • While family members and friends are often the most commonly available interpreters, the interpersonal dynamics of these relationships can influence the communication.
  • Confidentiality also must be addressed. Interpreters understand their role, that they are gaining access to personal health information that must be protected.


  • The interpreter's time is as important as your own.
  • Give the information to the interpreter in short sentences. Interpreters have to remember, and then translate everything that they hear. Short sentences reduce the risk of error or omissions.
  • Sometimes there is no direct translation. The interpreter may need extra time or additional direction to convey your words correctly.
  • Write down key points, directions and any other important information that can be easily confused or forgotten
  • Consider holding a debriefing session with the interpreter to investigate if the interpreter observed anything you should know about. They can give you clues on understanding non-verbal communication or cultural differences.