3 May

Over-the-phone interpretation entails several stressors: low voice volumes, lightning-speed recall and nerves of steel. A kind and knowledgeable professional helps us when we inquire about an unknown term. If I can’t understand, I can’t interpret. A physician was unaware that I needed help to help her communicate with her patient, in spite of my calm pleading. Here’s the scene.

DOCTOR: Tell her according to the CAT scan she suffers sludge and will therefore need further treatment.
INTERPRETER: Doctor, could you please explain sludge so I may interpret?
DOCTOR: Sludge, it’s spelled S-L-U-D-G-E.
INTERPRETER: Thank you, doctor. Might you use another term or express that another way? (At this time I take notes, grab my I-Pad to search frantically and still talk at the same time).
DOCTOR: It’s in the report.

What to do? I found the word sludge in my trusty Oxford and used that term. I had a choice there. Continue to inquire of the doctor or do my best. I chose the latter. The interpretation continued.

This morning after fifteen minutes of research, something unacceptable while a nervous patient waits for test results on the phone, I found the word – choletlithiasis: microlitiasis, litiasis de la vía biliar; (coll) barro biliar.

I wandered from bile duct sludge to biliary sludge. Then to bile duct obstruction, contemplated acumulación de bilis and ended at gallbladder sludge. Muchas thank you to the InterActive Terminology for Europe site

The doctor wouldn’t budge and extrapolate or give me a definition that would have rolled off the tongue. My esteemed professor from Kent State University, Dr. Leland Wright, warned us: “The main difference between interpreting and translation is time. A translator has the luxury of researching a single term. Not the interpreter.” So I must be prepared when the other parties refuse to budge.


  1. Holly N April 22, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    Exactly… sometimes if I find the word later but before the appointment is over, I will mention it.

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