The Interpreter’s Commitment to Linguistic Integrity
By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President
The American Translators Association defines linguistic integrity as the core of what translators and interpreters do, ensuring that nothing is omitted, altered or added to the source language. To maintain such integrity, not all phrases can be interpreted word for word.
For certain colloquial expressions or sayings, interpreters can convey the message through an idiom in the target language that carries the same meaning as the source. The expressions may not be the same word for word but they mean the same thing. Alternatively, a word for word interpretation would likely not make sense in the target language and vice versa.
Linguistic integrity also means a commitment to impartiality and confidentiality. Medical interpreters must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), adhering to all existing international federal or state laws. HIPAA rules require that Covered Entities and their Business Associates apply appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the privacy of Protected Health Information (PHI) and Electronic PHI (EPHI).
Linguistic integrity encompasses the notion of staying within the limits of one’s qualifications and capabilities, meaning that the interpreter must decline any projects that are beyond them. If an interpreter recognizes that meaningful communication is not taking place during an interpretation session, he or she must make the provider aware of the situation immediately. This can happen when the language is wrongly identified. For example, a Spanish interpreter is requested for a patient who speaks Mixteco, an indigenous language of Mexico or an ASL interpreter is requested for a Deaf individual who does not communicate via American Sign Language but rather utilizes home signs. The interpreter will explain to the provider why meaningful communication is not occurring and request that the appropriate interpreter take his or her place.
The concept of linguistic integrity also requires that interpreters enhance their capabilities whenever possible through continuing education in language, industry and professional practice. This is often achieved by attending interpreting conferences that offer CEU’s such as the International Medical Interpreter Association Annual Conference.
In essence, linguistic integrity is what defines an interpreter as qualified. Such integrity demonstrates the interpreter’s commitment to accuracy, impartiality, confidentiality and quality of their work. To learn more about what makes an interpreter qualified, watch this educational webinar “Why It’s Important to Use a Qualified Interpreter with Your LEP Patients” hosted by trilingual medical interpreter Lorena Castillo.