Acting interpreter

For the first time in my life, I acted as an interpreter for Japanese nurses in a seminar with British medical students.

On Monday, I got an email, which was asking me if I could help a group of Japanese nurses over the following few days, as they were staying to attend medical inter-professional sessions with a professional interpreter. I immediately replied ‘yes’.

On Tuesday, I joined a session in which the group of Japanese nurses gave a presentation to British students studying medicine, nursing and pharmacy. The professional interpreter made a simultaneous translation into English. Her translations were excellent when the medical students asked questions about technical issues as well. I was happy to learn the terminology and healthcare systems in the UK and Japan. I was stunned by the interpreter’s skills.

That night, I talked to Eric about this and said I felt comfortable to help them. But he looked very serious and said ‘you should prepare for attending the seminar because the nurses are supposed to discuss and work with medical students together. They speak little English, otherwise, all of you might have trouble.’ He studied translation in China, and now studies applied translation here. He gave me lots of advice from a professional perspective. Although I was thinking that I would just attend the class as one of their supporters, I read through the documents, watched the videos again and again, and checked all the terminology in the material, just in case.

On Wednesday, my nightmare came true. The professional interpreter didn’t come to the seminar. The Japanese girls and I were left in the seminar room filled with about 50 medical students. A teacher introduced us to them as nurses from Japan and an interpreter. I felt grateful to Eric, and I wasn’t confused with this unexpected happening because I was prepared enough to understand what they would do today.

Overall, I did my best so that the nurses were able to enjoy the role-play and join in the discussion. I used my own knowledge and experience of healthcare to explain some situations. If it was a real clinical practice, such a rough translation would be problematic. Interpreters really have to be serious about acting in real medical situations to avoid causing a huge problem.

Before anything else, I was happy to see the girls’ smiles and joy, and I learnt so many things!