5 Essential Memory Exercises For Medical Interpreters
Memory is essential to medical interpreting, especially if your job is to interpret multiple sentences at a time, involving technical vocabulary. While experience certainly helps medical interpreters relay large amounts of information accurately, memory exercises for interpreters are quite useful when you’re starting out.
Let’s look at an example.
Pretend you’ve just received your Spanish interpreter certification, and you’re beginning your first assignment: interpreting for an elderly patient being seen for heart problems. You start off just fine, introducing the patient to the doctor and describing minor symptoms.
Then all of the sudden the doctor begins describing some more complicated details about the disease to the patient, and you have to interpret this:
“Well based on what you’ve told me I would like to repeat the EKG and the chest X-ray, and do some blood tests. Depending on those results, I may send you for a cardiac catheterization, as I think you have something called ischemia. This happens when the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle are narrowed or blocked. Blood clots can form and it can potentially lead to a heart attack.”
To begin with, the doctor’s description contains some medical vocabulary that you must know how to describe to the patient: EKG (Electrocardiogram), X-Ray, Cardiac Catheterization, Ischemia, and then all the different terminology relating to the heart and blood flow.
On top of that the doctor didn’t even pause in her explanation to let you interpret, so you now have to relay all this technical information perfectly to the patient – using only your memory.
What do you do?
You employ some memory exercises for medical interpreters!
Memory Techniques for Interpreters
Of course one of the first things you can always do is ask the doctor to repeat herself, in shorter sentences. However, you may not always have the luxury of being able to ask doctors to repeat themselves – especially if you’re in an emergency situation, short on time.
Therefore, regularly practicing memory exercises for interpreters can help you in situations where you need to recall large amounts of information. There are plenty of tips about how to improve short term memory out there; however, we have chosen five short term memory exercises for interpreters that we think are the most helpful.
5 Memory Retention Exercises for Medical Interpreters:
- Visualization – a mnemonic in which you use imagery associated with the speech you are hearing in order to remember. For interpreters, it may be useful to create vivid mental images to accompany symptoms being described by patients.
In the case of our example, the interpreter could visualize going for all the different tests, and then the different parts of the heart working to help them remember the doctor’s words.
- Segmentation - This technique involves remembering sentences in chunks, as smaller bits of information are easier to remember. You do it daily when you break phone numbers down into groups, and the same technique can be used for verbal information.
When listening to a particularly long dialogue, group together the different topics, and the underlying points, you hear to help you remember them more easily. In our example you could categorize EKG, MRI, and Cardiac Catheterization into a “Test” category, and the information about ischemia into a “Disease Description” category.
- Memory Bating –Memory bating is the idea that you can associate multiple points or details with a few key ones you have already memorized. Using our example about heart failure, you can break the entire dialogue up based on key words – the more technical terms for example.
To help, you can write down these significant or technical words on a notepad, in the order of when they were said. Not only will this allow you to remember some of the more difficult terminology, but it will also give you a visual timeline of the doctor’s dialogue, and points to connect smaller details to. You can even check off your “bait” (key words) as you go down the list so you know you didn’t forget anything!
- Doodle – There has been research that shows doodling while listening to someone speak can help your concentration, and as such your memory. The theory goes that it helps you focus by allowing your brain to stay active. So go ahead, doodle boxes, circles, or flowers on a notepad while listening (though it is best to make sure you do this discretely, as patients or doctors may mis-interpret doodling as you not paying attention).
You could even incorporate some of the visualization techniques and draw symbols that will help you remember what was being said.
- Shadowing – This is a technique you would need to practice outside of actual medical interpreting assignments. It involves listening to a speaker – he or she could be on TV, on a radio show, or on a podcast - and pausing the audio (at natural breaks) to repeat exactly what he or she said.
The more you practice this, the better prepared you’ll be for real life scenarios!
Again, this is only a short list of some of the techniques you can employ to help improve your short term memory. Practicing these and others on a regular basis will help you improve in the long-term.
Soon enough, you’ll be able to handle a long, complicated dialogue (even longer and more complicated than our example) without any problems.
Training To Become A Medical Interpreter
Improving your memory is only part of the overall medical interpreter training process. You will also need to develop a large terminology base in your native and target languages, learn the ethics interpreters must abide by at all times, and get used to relaying information clearly and accurately.
One of the best ways to learn all of this information is through a medical interpreter training program. Language Connections offers a 7 week, medical interpreter training course where students are taught in small groups by professional medical interpreters.
Anatomy and physiology topics are covered, alongside language coaching and role plays. At the end of the program, students receive a certificate of completion which will allow them to work in most medical settings.
Improve your memory and your interpreting skills by enrolling in Medical Interpreter Training today!
Get the necessary, in person training in order to become a competent professional interpreter. Register now for one of our interpreter training programs:Medical Interpreter Training, Legal Interpreter Training or Community & Business Interpreter Training.
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