Non-English speaking clients face linguistic and cultural barriers to appropriate health, legal, or community services. Due to a lack of awareness, these same barriers may also prevent service providers from delivering quality services to all clients.
By facilitating linguistic and cross-cultural communication, interpreters ensure that clients get the information they need to ensure that clients understand their rights within different institutional settings and make informed health care or legal decisions. Use of an interpreter offers service providers the ability to deliver quality, equitable care to all their clients.
Evidence supports the use of interpreters. In healthcare studies, evidence shows that patients who lack access to health interpreting services are more likely to be dissatisfied with their care and more likely to have unmanaged pain. Without the patient being able to communicate their basic health information, there is a risk of misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatment, and lack of follow through, resulting in liability risks as well as the delivery of poor health care.
Newcomers to Canada come from countries where the legal system is different from ours. Persons who are unfamiliar with their rights in Canada and who have witnessed a crime, been the victim of a crime or who have been charged with committing a crime, cannot receive justice if they do not fully understand the proceedings. The danger of witnesses or victims not speaking up because of a fear of consequences is compounded when neither language nor systems are clearly understood.
Although it may be more convenient to use a family member, staff, or volunteer, untrained interpreters cannot be expected to deliver interpretation that uphold the professional standards of impartiality, accuracy and confidentiality.
Untrained interpreters, especially family members, may bring biases which distort the information being interpreted. Either client or interpreter may omit information due to embarrassment, or to protect a family member or provider from distressing information, jeopardizing the confidentiality and impartiality of the interpreting session.
An untrained interpreter may also lack familiarity with medical or legal terminology and with health care or justice system settings, compromising the accuracy of the information. A trained and confidential interpreter from Nova Scotia Interpreting Services negates these risks.