Community Interpreters During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Overcoming Communication Challenges

Here in the U.S., around 25 million people speak limited or no English, and because of this often miss out on a big part of not only community, but national engagement and awareness. For too long language access has been a deep set issue in hospitals, medical offices, and the entire field of public health. Even "in good times, effective language access is often not the top priority," says Mara Youdelman, a Washington, D.C. attorney focused on these problems. Compound this with the barrage of misinformation and stresses on healthcare and other systems of our nation, and “it just falls lower and lower down the list." So, how have community interpreters been faring?

Community Interpreters Dealing with Higher Stakes and Greater Consequences

Interpreting in itself is already a high-stakes occupation, as one mistaken word can affect both understanding and decision-making. With the many unknowns that come with a new virus, it’s vital to understand the benefits and risks of every decision made. Patients especially must feel confident they’re receiving unfiltered, accurate information. This added pressure on community interpreters is immense, who are aware that their words can have a major impact. The need for aid in areas like conference interpretation services has grown, as interpreters help to navigate not only directly across languages, but hurdle through dialects and slang, all instantaneously.

The Mobilization of Community Interpreters

From communicating the critical news and constant updates of the virus on the news, to working directly with patients and families and hospitals, community interpreters have been extremely active and helpful in ensuring that we are all in this together and on the same page during this pandemic. Working with government interpreters to help negotiate government loans and support businesses, and helping companies and families cope with unemployment and educational crises, interpreters are often left as the faceless heroes on the front lines.

How’s the Transition to Online for Community Interpreters?

The adjustment to online has been difficult for everyone, but it’s been especially troubling for interpreters. Company interpreters, healthcare interpreters, even professionals at the UN have had a tough time of it. Fortunately, working online comes with a silver lining. Working through the computer cancels out many scheduling conflicts and commutes that pose as obstacles. Interpreters can work from the comfort of their home, increasing their availability and accessibility.

Most importantly, dealing with the many diverse languages and dialects of any community, finding the right interpreter for meetings or conference interpreting isn’t always easy, in terms of budget or location. However, online interpreting can make that search easier, providing you with far more options to find not only the right community interpreters, but the best ones.

With a virus that discriminates against no one, community interpreters have worked to cover that diversity, and continue to keep our communities together and strong. Let us here at ITP support you with interpreter training in a variety of languages and focused fields.

Get the necessary online interpreter training in order to become a competent professional interpreter. Register now for one of our online interpreter training programs:  Online Medical Interpreter Training Online Legal Interpreter Training  or  Online Community & Business Interpreter Training. 

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Robert Sanborn

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