Interpreting in the Emergency Department: How Context Matters for Practice

  • Antoon Cox
  • Raquel Lázaro Gutiérrez
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Translating and Interpreting book series (PTTI)


The literature on medical interpreting shows that lack of a common language between a patient and a doctor is a major cause of health disparities in healthcare in multilingual environment. This problem is exacerbated around the world by the fact that emergency departments are becoming increasingly diverse and cater for multicultural as well as multilingual societies. Language barriers pose frequent problems between patients and caregivers, and this contribution stems from a project that is seeking to identify ways of dealing more effectively with multilingualism on in hospitals. As 80% of the diagnosis depends on oral communication, medical mishaps in emergency departments often result from vulnerable communication processes, due to language barriers; this area of research is under-represented in the growing focus on medical interpreting. Furthermore, considering that the conditions for communication in emergency departments are very different from primary care settings, this contribution presents the results of a research conducted to better understand interpreting needs in this context. This chapter hence reports on practices, emerging needs, and varying degrees of concerted, institutional responses in two specific local contexts (in which the research was carried out) that may be representative of endemic situations.


Language Barrier Professional Interpreter Medical Interpreter Cultural Broker Foreign Patient 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antoon Cox
    • 1
    • 2
  • Raquel Lázaro Gutiérrez
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Applied LinguisticsVrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.The Centre for Language, Discourse and Communication, Division of Medical EducationKing’s College London (KCL)St. Thomas’ St, London SE1 9RTUK
  3. 3.Filología ModernaUniversidad de AlcaláMadridSpain

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