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Your Doctor or Nurse Is Bilingual. Is That a Good Thing?

By Camille Bouvet, Lingolet Intern

Your Doctor or Nurse Is Bilingual. Is That a Good Thing?

Having a bilingual doctor or nurse is not a bad thing, quite the contrary.

The caregiver-patient relationship is significant to hope for a good recovery. Health problems bring a lot of worry and stress to the patient, and social isolation does not help.

The caregiver is the one who brings you the good and bad news, explains your diagnosis and the steps to follow for a good recovery.

You may not speak the language of the country where you are receiving care. It is already very stressful to be away from your loved ones and in a foreign country when you are ill. This emotional support, talking to you, laughing, and confiding in you can only benefit a patient.

 So there is no point in me asking for a medical interpreter?

Unfortunately, being bilingual is not enough for medical interpreting. Even if you are bilingual, errors in translation and interpretation can occur.
A medical interpreter's work consists of transferring an oral speech from a source language to a target language.
Different from the work of a translator, the result of an interpreter is more complicated. It requires many skills and qualities.
Abbreviations and false friends are very common in medicine, and a medical interpreter must always question the meaning of acronyms used by a caregiver. A simple abbreviation can completely change the severity of a diagnosis.

In the interpreter training program, the future professional can instantly understand and analyze an oral text, organize his or her speech and render it orally in the target language

The interpreter must decide spontaneously and quickly and work under pressure (medical and legal interpreting).

To sum up, even though having a bilingual health care staff and doctor is beneficial for the patient's emotional health, it is better to ask for a medical interpreter to make sure that you are well understood and that you know the medical terms.

In 2020, technological solutions have emerged to ensure remote access to interpreting. Lingolet is the first to offer an on-demand solution with more than 4000 interpreters and a complete management platform for administrators


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Learn more about medical translation: 


  • Why are medical translation errors unacceptable, and how can they be avoided

  • Is there a difference in medical language between Quebec French and French from France?

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