How to Work with Interpreters and Translators

Henriette_Langdon  Langdon_WWIT  Terry_Saenz

By Henriette W. Langdon, Ed.D., FCCC-SLP and Terry I. Saenz, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, authors of Working with Interpreters and Translators: A Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists

Our world is increasingly heterogeneous. English is no longer the only language spoken in the United States, England, or Australia. French is not the only main language spoken in France and neither is German the only language spoken in Germany. Immigration caused by political and economical changes has dispersed many people to other countries in the world in search of better opportunities. Consequently, communication between these individuals and residents of the different countries is often disrupted due to the lack of a common language. This challenge has existed throughout humankind, but it seems that it has increased in the last century or so. There have always been people who knew two languages that needed bridging, but now this urgency is more pronounced. The need for professionally trained interpreters was first noted following the end of WWI when the Unites States was first involved in world peace talks alongside many nations with representatives who all spoke a variety of languages. This historical event eventually led the League of Nations to the foundation of the École d’Intèrpretes in Geneva, Switzerland in 1924. Since that time, many other schools that train bilingual interpreters to participate in international conferences have been established. The AIIC [Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conférence (International Association of Conference Interpreters)] Interpreting Schools directory lists a total of 87 schools worldwide: http://aiic.net/directories/schools/georegions. The reader can gather information on which specific language pairs are emphasized in the various training schools; for example, Arabic-English; French-Spanish, Chinese-English, and so forth. Thus, interpreting for international conferences is a well-established profession today, offering specific training and certificates. However, interpreting is necessary not only for international conferences, but also to assist in bridging the communication in everyday contexts such as medical or health, judicial, educational (schools) and the community at large. Training and certification in areas such as medical and judicial have slowly emerged and are available to those who need them in various states throughout the United States. Legislation has been the primary force in the establishment of certificates in the areas of medical and legal interpreting. However, training in other areas where interpreting is needed such as education, and our professions, speech pathology and audiology, are notoriously lacking. There are some situations where medical interpreters can assist speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and audiologists in a hospital or rehabilitation center, but even those interpreters may not have the specific terminology and practice or procedures to work effectively with our professionals. Working with Interpreters and Translators: A Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists is a second revised and expanded edition on this topic that provides SLPs, audiologists, and interpreters who collaborate with them some concrete tools and strategies on how best to conduct interviews, conferences, and assessments when the client and/or family does not speak English fluently.  The proposed process is based on information gathered from other interpreting professions. The research, and some personal interviews with audiologists in particular that were conducted to assemble this information, indicate that the process is conducted haphazardly at best.  The literature available on the collaboration between SLPs and interpreters indicates that both parties are not secure about procedure and must learn how to work together by trial and error. Often the SLP does not trust the interpreter and the interpreter does not follow suggested procedures, such as failing to interpret all that is being said, conducting a side conversation with a parent during a meeting, and giving the child unnecessary cuing during testing (if tests are available in the child’s language, which is primarily Spanish). Literature on working effectively with audiologists is almost nonexistent; therefore, the first author resorted to several personal interviews with audiologists, a specialist of the deaf and hard of hearing, and professors of audiology throughout the country. Often individuals who perform the duties and responsibilities of the interpreter and who are hired to do this job are not fully bilingual; they may speak the two languages, but may not be able to read or write the language they are using to interpret. These interpreters are often not respected, are not treated as professionals, and their pay is very low.

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Tips for Assessing Bilingual Children As a Monolingual SLP – by Leisha Vogl

Hello Speech-Language Pathologists-

We are re-posting an article from ASHASphere on bilingual patients written by Leisha Vogl. We hope you find it insightful.

-Plural Team

 

Tips for Assessing Bilingual Children As a Monolingual SLP

by Leisha Vogl

 

There are an estimated 337 different languages used (spoken, written, and/or signed) in the United States. Even bilingual speech-language pathologists will encounter situations in which the client’s primary language is unknown.  There are standardized, evidence-based tests for the Spanish-English population. But what about Russian, Vietnamese, German and so on? What do you do?

Here are some key practices that can aid any SLP evaluating a child who speaks an unfamiliar language:

  • Conduct a family/caregiver interview, which can help minimize cultural and linguistic biases. Understanding how others in the family view the client’s communication gives insight into expectations and the possibility for deficits. Is the client able to meet these expectations? If not, why and how? Do they differ significantly from others in that communication circle?
  • Use an interpreter. Meet with the interpreter prior to any contact with the family to review the process, terminology, and what you want him or her to do. If possible, use someone outside the child’s family and circle of friends to reduce the possibility of bias. Interpreters can provide key information, such as, “It was very hard for me to understand him,” or, “He doesn’t use prepositions correctly.” Using such information, along with additional testing measures can help support or negate a true disorder.
  • Use highly pragmatic tests if formal/standardized testing is not available in the child’s primary language. These tests will help determine the client’s grasp of conversational language, which is the first building block to more complex language. The same is true in monolinguals—that the first language we learn is social in nature. We e acquire more complex understanding and use of language by building on social language. You cannot report standard scores when using standardized testing not normed for that language. You can use the information as qualitative data to support the rest of your findings. I personally like administering the Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS), now a second edition, for this population. It is relatively easy and quick to administer.
  • Employ Dynamic Assessment, which  involves pretest of a skill, an intervention to address that skill, and then a post-test to determine if there was progress. This method of assessment can be useful for evaluating multilingual individuals. If intense intervention is needed, this can indicate  impairment.Review the ASHA website for more information on Dynamic Assessment.

Things to be mindful of regarding typical bilingual language development include the following.

  • The silent period occurs when a client is first exposed to a new language. Typically this period ends between six months to a year. Some common misidentifications in this phase are Autism Spectrum Disorder, Selective Mutism, and language delay. It has also been noted that with a significant change in school, family situation and the like can trigger some children to revert to the silent period. This is why family and caregiver interviewing is so essential to diagnosing a language disorder.
  • Bilingual development is recognized in two stages. Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS), also known as “conversational language,” typically takes two to three years to acquire. Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), also known as “academic language,” takes five to seven years to develop. Some common misidentifications during these phrases are Language Disorder and Specific Learning Disability. Be careful that the years refer to a 12-month period of constant and consistent exposure. Our academic calendars are typically nine months, so it may take more academic years to acquire conversational and academic language.

Remember when evaluating any child that there is variety among the “same” cultures and languages.

What additional information do you, or would you, include in an evaluation?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leisha Vogl, MS CCC-SLP, is the owner of Sensible Speech-Language Pathology, LLC, in Salem, Oregon. She’s worked in the field of speech-language pathology for about 7 years ranging from early intervention, school-age populations, and adults in an acute care setting. Leisha is proficient in Spanish and American Sign Language. You may follow Sensible Speech on Facebook or Twitter. Check out the website at www.sensiblespeech.com