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Interpreter Training Aims to Lift Burden Off Children, Friends at the Doctor’s Office

Video Credit: Brian Myers, Media Arts Center San Diego

By Brian Myers

The Alliance for African Assistance is putting on a 40-hour mental health interpreter training course. It’s offered through their Global Village program, a branch that provides language and cultural support to healthcare providers, social service agencies and other organizations.

Global Village Programs Manager Brittney Ochira said the training is aimed at increasing the amount of certified medical interpreters available in San Diego.

“We really want to get away from untrained interpreters out in the community,” she said. “We really want to move towards, as a county, really well-trained people going to every medical appointment out there.”

Friends or family who are not certified to interpret at healthcare appointments could confuse essential medical terms or create an environment where a patient does not disclose important information, Ochira said.

“As you can imagine, they’re not comfortable to really share what’s going on with them,” Ochira said. “So having a neutral party that’s competent, that know their stuff, that’s a really powerful way for people to feel comfortable with their providers and open up and address some deep-seated needs they might have.”

Ochira said there’s a mix of attendants at the training.

“Some of them are already working in the field and want to refine their skills,” she said. “Others are bilingual and want to learn what it’s like to be an interpreter, so this is a good first step to that process of becoming an interpreter.”

Veronica Schraeder is a medical interpreter practicing in San Diego. She attended the mental health course to maintain her certification.

Being a border region means there’s a great need for professional medical interpreters.

“I have phone calls at 5:00 in the morning, because they need to be there for surgery,” Schraeder said. “There’s a lot of demand.”

Claudia Meza is an outreach worker for a health center in El Cajon that has certified medical interpreters for Arabic, but not Spanish.

Certification would mean providing a new service to her organization.

“I would like to impact a little of my community,” Meza said. “I could help them with that translation and make sure I know the words, that I know the vocabulary.”

The mental health interpreting course continues through May.


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