"I am not a robot!" Interpreters' views of their roles in health care settings

Qual Health Res. 2008 Oct;18(10):1367-83. doi: 10.1177/1049732308323840.


In this study, I examined interpreters' self-perceived roles and their corresponding communicative goals and strategies. Twenty-six professional interpreters (of 17 languages), 4 patients, and 12 health care providers were recruited for this study, which involved participant observation of medical encounters and in-depth interviews. Constant comparative analysis was used to generate a typology of interpreters' self-perceived roles, which are different from the roles they learned in their training. Different roles reflect differences in interpreters' concern for other participants' goals, institutional goals, and their own communicative goals. Interpreters' desire to maintain neutrality during the medical encounters influences the communicative strategies they adopt when assuming other roles. I conclude the article with the theoretical and practical implications of interpreters' self-perceived roles.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Communication Barriers
  • Humans
  • Multilingualism
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Professional Role / psychology
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Translating*