Clinicians and medical interpreters: negotiating culturally appropriate care for patients with limited English ability

Fam Community Health. Jul-Sep 2007;30(3):237-46. doi: 10.1097/01.FCH.0000277766.62408.96.


Medical interpreters provide a bridge across the language gap for patients and practitioners. Research suggests that practitioners and interpreters experience numerous difficulties in their collaboration that can negatively affect service to patients with limited English proficiency, many of whom are immigrants. Using qualitative evidence from interviews with medical interpreters, I argue that many of these difficulties result from the fact that interpreter practice is based on a theoretical understanding of communication that does not adequately describe the problems faced by interpreters in negotiating between immigrant and practitioner groups. Suggestions for a more theoretically complete practice are offered.

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers
  • Communication*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Health Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Translating*