Empathy-human nature and an important interpreting skill

3rd May 2013

Every Friday  the Pearl Linguistics team shares news, opportunities and  interesting research  from the translation and interpreting field.

Today, I’d like to point out a very important skill which makes the difference between an average and an excellent interpreter- empathy.

Living our hectic life styles and building our careers can mean losing  the most natural part of human nature - empathy.

We all have been  in the  shoes of a patient; whether seeking medical advice in a walk-in centre , a surgery or a hospital. Being a patient, not feeling well, waiting for test results and medical help  can all cause stress.  The amount of stress increases when the patient doesn’t understand  the language spoken by the medical staff . Nowadays, as the world becomes a smaller place, many towns and cities are multicultural. Cultural and language barriers can lead to many misunderstandings between  the patient and the medical staff .

 Having an interpreter present in the hospital becomes a necessity. Professional interpreters should have a very good cultural knowledge, not just good language skills.

However, empathy is the skill which makes the difference between an average and an excellent interpreter. Unfortunately, not all interpreters understand the importance of their ability to put themselves into the patient’s shoes. The Pearl Linguistics team makes sure the full and part time interpreters are highly qualified professionals approaching each client as an individual, fully understanding the definition of empathy . As a full time interpreter I’m meeting different patients on a daily basis, whose medical conditions vary from the slightest cold to serious life-threatening conditions.

Sitting in a waiting room with a patient might last minutes as well as hours. Many patients  turn to the interpreter with the most natural need to speak, to share their fear  and expect to be listened to. An empathetic interpreter has to be ready to listen with heart,  showing both understanding and compassion. In my  career, I have seen a lot of painful and heartbreaking situations which made me realise the real values of  life - our health. Thankfully, there have been many happy moments which I have shared with patients.

Empathy is a vital  personal quality, and we at Pearl Linguistics highly value  those professional interpreters who know and understand the definition of empathy - the feeling of compassion or concern for another human, the wish to see them better or  happier.

Elena Solcianska, Slovak, Czech, Hungarian Interpreter (full time)


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