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Can Telephone Interpreting be Helpful in an Emergency?

Recent immigrants understandably face a whole raft of issues in their new chosen country. One problem that could cost them their health or even life is communicating with emergency services with a limited grasp of the national language. Phone interpreting services can help.

Immigrants have particular problems in terms of seeking medical help. This is because language barriers can make it tricky to convey the right message that may result in them not getting the right medical assistance. Nowadays, first world countries have developed  some ideas and techniques to aid the needs of the immigrants in their new homeland.

The need for interpreting services is not simply for doctors alone in dealing with medical issues for patients, but interpreting services are also essential for any type of emergency.

One of the main problems that many immigrants face during their first day in their new countries is communicating with their neighbours or new friends. Communicating with other people is important especially for making new friends in the different environment. In addition, this may be become a serious problem for both of the host country and the new immigrants.

One of the best examples of this is the increasing number of immigrants in the U.S. Among these are immigrants from China, India, Somalia, Haiti, Russia etc. These immigrants understand the possibilities of an interaction without understanding and the disadvantages of language barriers.  In this connection, the government of the United States has officially issued health care facilities for immigrants, including medical interpreting services and education assistance for students.

But what if the problem relates to dealing with emergency responders on the phone like firefighters, paramedics or calling the police department? How can an immigrant reach and tell the emergency responders what the issue is and what kind of service they need? How can telephone interpreting services be effective in an emergency situation?

New immigrants dealing with emergency situations would definitely be doubtful about what is the right thing to do in dealing with such a situation; whether to ask help from the neighbours and new friends first or to call emergency responders. A large part of the problem would be that they would not be confident enough yet in speaking using the national language of the country. Immigrants would be hesitant in talking to other people and even if some communication occurred, there would be no guarantee that both sides can understand each other. Thus, there is a possibility of misinterpretation.

In a situation like this, it is very important that emergency service providers should have fast access to interpreters who can quickly gather the information scripted from other languages, to be able to perform an effective action to solve a problem, whether the emergency involved a crime report or an accident. In some cases, it would be an advantage if there is somebody nearby from the scene or place of the incident that can speak and understand both languages. That way, all things in an emergency may just turn out to be fine.

Furthermore, it should be noted that telephone interpreters should provide the most important details, by interpreting in a very accurate and efficient way. Telephonic interpreters play an important role in society; providing phone interpreting services can actually save lives.

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Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta Translation, a leading London translation agency.

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