Tuesday, December 25

From Our Lips to Your Ears: How Interpreters Are Changing the World

Calling all Interpreters with great stories!

A book titled, From Our Lips to Your Ears: How Interpreters are Changing the World is currently in the works. It will consist of personal anecdotes from interpreters like you and me.

This is not an academic publication, but simply a compilation of honest stories from interpreters in order to demonstrate how important the work of an interpreter really is.

For those of you interested in participating in the project, please visit the official website:

Best Regards,

Nick Arce

Wednesday, November 7

Interpreting for Brain Death Situations

Brain Dead, what does it mean?
Lack of blood flow to the brain, thus brain does not receive oxygen. If brain does not receive oxygen for approximately four minutes then brain is dead. California law states that patient must have no brain activity in order to be declared brain dead. Furthermore, brain death is irreversible. It is not to be confused with “coma” which is an entirely different medical state which is reversible.

How long can someone be “brain dead” before their body shuts down?
If someone is young and healthy, up to four days; an elderly or sick individual, up to two days or less.

How does this affect Interpreters?
Brain death is a sensitive and difficult concept to explain, especially to non-western cultures. Most available medical literature is not written in a culturally sensitive perspective which may influence the way the medical staff will explain concept to family. This is where the interpreter will act as a cultural clarifier and explain sensitivity to medical staff.

Terms or expressions:
The expression “Vegetable state” should be avoided at all cost. It is equivalent to a racial slur because it is demeaning/comparing a human/human life to a vegetable. The correct expression is “Vegetative state,” however it is a complicated expression which is also discouraged. Medical staff should offer an explanation of what Brain death means instead of simply using unintelligible terms.

Other terms to know:
Durable Power of Attorney
Advance Directive
Next of Kin

What exams are performed to determine brain death?
Neurological exam
Pupil Dilation
Cold Calorics
CT Scan

For Further Information Please See:


Monday, March 26

Hospital Language Barriers

When a patient initially arrives at an emergency department suffering from a serious illness, a triage nurse must quickly determine a number of things: his illness level, medical history, allergies, etc.

What if the patient does not speak the same language as the medical staff?

Communication is key in all businesses, however it may be a question of life or death when dealing with hospital consent forms, medications, and medical procedures.This anxiety-provoking scenario plays out routinely in hospitals across the United States.

Offering an interpreter service is key to facilitating communication between the medical staff and patient. It is also a patients right to truly understand and consent to medical treatment.

Everyday I see medical staff relying upon untrained "bilingual" individuals with limited knowledge of medical terminology in either the source or target language. By doing this, they are not only offering poor quality health care, but also jeopardizing the life of their patient.