Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 23, June, 2010

Ingrid Hanssen & Lise-Merete Alpers

Interpreters in Intercultural Health Care Settings: Health professionals’ and professional interpreters’ cultural knowledge, and their reciprocal perception and collaboration


To learn how health professionals and interpreters perceive each other and collaborate. Based on this discuss the role of professional interpreters.
Method: Narrative interviews with nurses, focus group interviews and questionnaire studies of medical nurses, psychiatric health professionals, and professional interpreters.
Findings: Communication problems may be caused by language and by different horizons of understanding, medical explanations, expressions of symptoms etc. Many health professionals find it difficult to communicate well with patients through interpreters. They tend to trust professional interpreters to translate everything being said and inform about misunderstandings, while Norwegian interpreters are only authorised for verbatim translations without any additions or comments.
Conclusion: Interpreters are needed who are qualified to act as cultural mediators and who are legally and ethically authorised to do so.

Key words: Interpretation– interpreters – intercultural communication – cultural interpretation – cultural ‘bridge building’

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