Assessing medical interpreters: The language and interpreting testing project

Claudia V Angelelli*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)


    The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st witnessed important changes that have affected healthcare delivery to patients with limited proficiency in English in the United States, resulting in an increasing need for professional interpreters. This need cannot be met by the limited number of available professional medical interpreters, and bilingual individuals volunteering to help or receiving on-the-job training consequently have to be assessed on both language and interpreting abilities. This paper reports on the design of an instrument of assessment used to measure the skills of medical interpreters. Authentic medical exchanges with Spanish, Cantonese and Hmong-speaking patients were collected and analyzed to identify the basic linguistic and interpreting skills commonly used in interpreter-mediated encounters within healthcare settings. These communicative events were used as the basis for creating scripts that form the core of a set of tests for an interpreter training programme. In order to validate the scenarios and adaptations introduced by native informants participating in the study, the scripts were presented to focus groups formed by community members, interpreters and healthcare providers for each ethnic group. Each script was video recorded and field tested and is now piloted at five sites in California and ten other sites in the US. The article is relevant for interpreter educators, medical interpreters and hospital administrators interested in using tests to identify and develop special abilities of bilingual speakers in the medical setting.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)63-82
    Number of pages20
    JournalThe Translator
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Communication


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