Should You Translate at a Relative's GP Appointment?

Health & Medical Blog

If one of your close relatives doesn't speak much English and they need to see their GP, then they may have asked you to go along and translate. While you may help your family out with their general translation needs, you may not be sure whether to do this for a medical appointment. What are the pros and cons?

When Family Translation Works

If your relative has an immediate appointment and needs help communicating with their doctor, then you can fill this gap. Your relative can see their doctor as soon as they need to if you're willing to go along too.

In some cases, your relative may prefer to have you translate rather than a stranger. They may simply feel more comfortable with someone they know and trust. Some people may not want to talk about personal issues or intimate things in front of translators they do not know.

If your relative is more open and honest because you're translating for them, then the doctor has a better chance of finding out everything they need to know. However, your relationship also helps if your relative isn't completely open about something. You might be able to tell if they aren't telling the doctor the whole truth, enabling you to encourage your relative to be honest.

When Family Translation Doesn't Work

While family translators are sometimes a good stopgap measure, they don't always work as well as professional translators. You may struggle to translate medical terminology and to explain procedures clearly. This may confuse your relative, misinform them or leave them without vital information.

Your relationship with your relative is also sometimes a problem. For example, mothers may not be comfortable talking about intimate issues in front of their sons, and fathers may have the same problem with their daughters.

In some cases, your emotions also come into play. Medical translation should be dispassionate; however, this may not be possible if you have to translate bad news. For example, having to tell one of your parents that they have cancer or a terminal diagnosis will be extremely difficult for both you and your parent.

If you have any doubts about translating for your relative, then their medical centre that offers multicultural health care will be able to help. They are used to dealing with multicultural and multilingual situations. Staff can arrange a translator, even at short notice. Some translators attend appointments with patients; however, they can also translate over the phone or online.


30 August 2018

Staying Healthy from the Inside Out

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