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by Dr Chris Fear and Professor Saeed Farooq
Last updated: October 2016
need is one of the key drivers of social exclusion…and inequity in
access to services (Aspinal,
Language is an essential
psychiatric tool for eliciting symptoms and signs; diagnosis
and treatment are handicapped if there is no common means of
understanding between doctor and patient.
Linguistics and the use of interpreters are
rarely mentioned in psychiatric texts despite the increasing
population of migrants and displaced persons entering the UK each
year. Studies of British Asians indicate that more than half
have experienced difficulties in communication and report
dissatisfaction with interpretation services.
Many UK hospitals have access to
interpretation services but few psychiatrists have experience in
using them. Inexperience on the part of doctor or interpreter
can give rise to errors in understanding symptoms and there are
numerous accounts of the serious problems that can arise in such
This module aims to offer an introduction to the concept of
interpreter-mediated interviews, exploring the common errors and
pitfalls and offering advice on how to avoid them. It
considers the use of relatives or other unqualified people as
interpreters, reviews the role of bilingualism and provides
practical tips for working with interpreters.
All UK psychiatrists should understand the basic principles of
interpreter-mediated interviews. This module is aimed especially
towards those who work in areas of rich cultural and linguistic
Start the module
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