Tips For Working With An Interpreter for People Who Are Limited English Proficient (LEP)

Contributed by Sabrina Nagel, a Spanish language interpreter for the New York City Vision and Aging Coalition

Tips for Providers Working With Consumers Who Are LEP:

  • Always address the consumer directly and speak in the first person to ensure accuracy.
  • Interpreters are not trained to conduct assessments or provide clarification; interpreters should say exactly what is said by either party at all times.
  • Understand that the answers or content in the conversation are not the interpreter's; if the answer provided by a consumer isn’t what you as provider were asking, the interpreter cannot clarify, even if aware of it.
  • During a meeting with a consumer, the interpreter should avoid talking to providers directly or telling the provider anything that the interpreter does not want to be communicated to the patient or consumer. The interpreter's obligation is to provide equal and accurate communication in both directions.

Tips For Consumers

  • Feel free to ask questions, to speak up freely, not just when asked to speak. It is the interpreter's job to be the consumer's voice.
  • Do not tell the interpreter anything you do not wish to be communicated to the provider. The interpreter's job and goal is to facilitate the communication between the consumer and the provider; interpreters cannot offer advice, or help, or solutions other than to help you communicate with the provider and vice-versa.
  • Understand that interpreters are not trained instructors, doctors, or social workers; interpreters cannot make decisions or provide treatment. The interpreter may know an answer to a question because it’s been asked previously in another meeting with a different provider. However,it is the interpreter's job to ask and interpret everything that is being said each and every time, always giving you, the consumer, the opportunity to answer the questions yourself and never for you.

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