Medical Interpreting Pictures

Medical Interpreting Clears Up Major (and Funny) Miscommunications

In the US, patients with Limited English proficiency have a right to receive equal healthcare.  A few legal sources protect this right, including an executive order from Bill Clinton about Title VI in 2000, as well as the findings for Lau v. Nicols in 1974.  Even with a legally-protected right, a shocking number of LEP patients are forced to go without interpreting services or translation services when they’re at the hospital or doctor’s office.  (This is especially egregious considering how many great medical translation and interpretation classes are out there.)  Many times, going without a medical interpreting can be dangerous, if not life-threatening.  Having a certified medical interpreter ensures that the misunderstandings and mispronunciations (which could potentially be dangerous!) are easily cleared up.  When they’re caught early, these miscommunications aren’t just nonthreatening– they can be downright funny.  Read on for some examples.

Medical Interpreting and ‘Peanut Butter Balls’ 

Some words or phrases are notorious for being mispronounced or totally misunderstood by patients.  This often happens for a few reasons.  Firstly, gaps in understanding can come because a patient may be in too much pain or emotional duress (or both) to think and communicate clearly.  It’s easy to see this happening when a patient is trying to speak in their second (or third, etc) language. A second reason is that patients may have little or no exposure to Western medical knowledge.  Without this knowledge, it’s natural that LEP patients completely make up a term or mispronounce it.   Luckily, it’s easy to rectify any issues from these two factors when somebody provides medical consecutive interpreting or simultaneous interpreting because they’ been trained in medical terminology.  Here are a few examples that come up often in medical interpreting.

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  • A patient may talk about their stomach, or abdominal pain as ‘abominable pain.’
  • Medical professionals find that LEP patients sometimes refer to the Chicken Pox as ‘Chicken Pops.’ (Which sounds like a delicious summer treat!)
  • Sick LEP patients might protest they don’t spend any time at all with dogs when they’re diagnosed with ‘Woofing Cough.’
  • Good interpreters and translators help distinguish between their patient’s eye issues, i.e. ‘cataracts,’ and their cars, or ‘Cadillacs.’
  • OBGYN’s may need interpreters to ensure patients don’t think they’ve entered ‘many paws,’ but menopause.
  • Aspirin is sometimes called ‘Assburn’ by an LEP patient.
  • Pregnant patients might wonder if their OBGYN’s think they’re especially happy when they’re give birth. To some LEP patients, ‘dilated’ sounds like ‘delighted.’
  • Speaking of treats patients may need interpreting to understand that they’re not about to receive ‘peanut butter balls.’ They’ll actually get a dose of phenobarbital.


About Language Connections:

Language Connections is a language service provider.  We specialize in technical, medical and legal translation, simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, website and software localization, and corporate language programs and interpreter training. We provide certified, professional translation in 100+ languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, German, and French. With over 20 years of experience, we have expertise in all major industries including the life sciences, patent and immigration law, international business, global education, and advanced technology. We offer cost-efficient interpreting conference solutions that will meet your multilingual needs for all types of international events, business meetings, conferences, lectures or presentations.

For a free quote or to learn more about our services visit

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Language Connections LLC
2001 Beacon Street, Suite 105,
Boston, MA 02135
Phone: +1-617-731-3510




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