Intercultural Communication: Do You Know What I Mean?

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Dulce Aída Cano


In order to provide excellent service, an interpreter not only has to translate from one language to another, but must also have knowledge about cultures, communication, and the basis of the language. Translating is something not many can do – it is one thing to be able to speak more than one language and another to translate between two languages. Interpreting is an asset that people don’t typically think about when they picture a hospital scenario. The Medical Spanish Minor Program I participated in was created when the language barrier became a dilemma for health professionals in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) of Texas. Because of the large number of immigrants from Mexico, the majority of the population in the Rio Grande Valley is Hispanic. The Valley is composed of four counties: Starr County, Hidalgo County, Willacy County, and Cameron County. The U.S. Census Bureau (2013) calculates that 88.4 percent of Cameron County is Hispanic, along with 90.9 percent of Hidalgo County, 95.6 percent of Starr
County, and 87.3 percent of Willacy County. The health professionals of the RGV must be prepared for the barriers that this may cause. Of course, the service provided by health professionals is different all around the world, and ultimately it is up to the health provider to adapt to the situations presented. The provider’s goal is guaranteeing that the patient is given the care that will benefit his/her health, though achieving that goal may be difficult. Nonetheless, efficient communication guarantees physicians and nurses are able to provide more professional services. When the barrier of communication is placed between patient and doctor, endless amounts of distress and miscommunication may ensue. That’s when an interpreter steps in to overcome that communication barrier. An interpreter has to make a connection between two languages so the translation will flow smoothly. In my experience as an interpreter during my Spanish 3199 Internship, I learned the art of how two people are able to communicate with the use of a third person and the importance of accurate communication in a healthcare setting. The patient goes to the doctor to tell him/her about his/her symptoms and worries, but if the doctor does not speak the same language, the sole purpose of seeking medical attention may be rendered useless. The interpreter has to be able to translate what the patient wishes in the way he/sheexpresses it, so that the doctor will know the intensity of what the patient is trying to communicate.

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Cano, D. A. . (2013). Intercultural Communication: Do You Know What I Mean?. Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning & Community-Based Research, 2, 1–6.
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