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Interpreting as mediation for the bilingual dialogue between foreign citizens and institutions in Italian healthcare settings

This article presents an analysis of 55 conversations between doctors and patients, who did not share a common language, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Interpreters took part in each of these conversations to interpret Italian and Arabic. The findings suggest that whether or not the patient’s voice, wishes and feelings are heard by the doctor is largely dependent on the interpreter’s actions. In some instances, the interpreter may exclude the patient or the doctor from relevant healthcare information. Conversely, the emotional rapport between the patient and the doctor may improve if the interpreter conveys implicit content to the doctor, thus creating opportunities for him or her to respond. These findings indicate that interpreters are expected not only to interpret what is said but also to act as mediators to enable both parties to communicate effectively.

Author(s): Federico Farini

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