A recent article promoted the use of children to interpret for their parents during medical appointments, at government offices, and at school. In my dual capacity as a parent and a Sworn Translator (owner of VerbioGroup.com), I am appalled at the cavalier attitude toward relying on youngsters to explain serious and complex medical diagnoses or legal situations to their parents. I would never put my middle-schooler in a position to explain to a parent that one of us has a severe illness or needs to complete certain legal proceedings.

Children often lack the correct understanding of the technical terms in any language. Situations like this can be challenging, even traumatizing for adults. Why place a child in the middle? Government agencies and school districts have contracts with trained and professional interpreters. Private hospitals are expected to apply parallel requirements by Oregon Health Authority and the Affordable Care Act. Failure to offer services in a language that someone can understand is a violation of the Civil Rights Amendment (Section V for the Deaf community or Section VI for limited English speakers).

Interpreting services are available 24/7 on-demand by phone and/or by video conference to serve less populated areas (like Pendleton) where fewer interpreters reside, especially for less common languages spoken in the region (Karen, Burmese, Tigrinya, etc.). Professional interpreting requires formal training in technical jargon in two languages, procedures, ethics, privacy laws (e.g., HIPAA and FERPA), and how to cope with traumatic situations. Not a job for young kids.

Virginia Joplin


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