When in Doubt, Think Broad! (Tips for Interpreters)

As an interpreter, you need to retain a lot of vocabulary and have knowledge of a wide range of topics. While the endeavor to understand all the tiny details to every medical procedure and disease, every legal ruling, or financial technicality is admirable, it’s better to first retain the equivalent of the words in your target language than to focus on the details that go along with the specific terminology.

For example,  all medical interpreters should know the term “Hepatitis B.” The other thing to know about this is that it’s relating to the liver.  Everything else you know about it is a bonus and will be helpful to your work as an interpreter, but it is not critical. While you can always do research and learn about the causes, the symptoms, the treatments, and prevention, all that knowledge isn’t necessarily required for you to be able to interpret the phrase “Hepatitis B.” If the patient does not know what Hepatitis B is, he will ask the doctor, and the doctor will answer any of the patient’s questions. At this point, all you’d have to do is interpret. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t spend time to learn more about the phrases or procedures we are interpreting about, just that we should try to maximize our time and to ensure that we are retaining what will be most applicable to our work, which is a wide-ranging vocabulary.

Expanding your vocabulary is the first step to being able to render good interpretations, and learning more about each component relating to the terms is something you can build up overtime. Our understanding about the technicalities and details will benefit our work, but they aren’t necessarily critical to our performance, so when in doubt, go for more vocabulary than more details.

Fellow interpreters, do you agree? What are your thoughts on this general approach?

As always, happy interpreting!

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What the Heck is a Stress Test? (Medical Interpreting)

Medical interpreting is exciting because it is often unpredictable. No one appointment is the same, and interpreters often walk into their assignments without much knowledge about the matter in discussion. Even so, as part of our professionalism, we must be as prepared as we can be to ensure we are providing the best service and fulfilling our job of enabling communication between the provider and patient.  As many of you may know, we’re not always given a lot of detailed information about the appointment at hand, so what I do is take any relevant information as clues for what is to come. These can include the hospital, the doctor’s name, the age of the patient, or basic information about the type of appointment, such as a consultation or a physical. As interpreters, we should be resourceful and use what we have as the basis for our research and preparation for the appointment.

Recently, the one clue I received was “cardiac imaging,” so I read about the different types of cardiac imaging and made sure I was up to speed on the procedure and technical terms. When I arrived to the assignment, I learned that the patient was taking a  Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram. Thankfully, I knew all about it by the time of the appointment so it went smoothly.

Below is a quick summary of what the exam is about and how it works, as well, a list of terms that came up during the appointment, which I hope will be helpful to you.

Basic overview of the Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram: 

Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram is a type of stress test, which is used to evaluate the heart’s ability to respond to stress. During the test, the patient is connected to an electrocardiogram to monitor his heart rate and a blood pressure machine to monitor his blood pressure before, during, and after the heart rate reaches capacity. The goal is to see how the heart responds when it is working hard. Four sets of ultrasound images are taken throughout the process. One before the injection of the Dobutamine, two as the medication takes effect, and one after the heart rate goes back to normal when the medication loses effect. There are two ways to stimulate the heart rate: one by exercise, and one by medication. Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram the type of cardiac imaging used when the patient is unable to walk or run on the treadmill and when the medication, Dobutamine, is injected through an IV instead to simulate how the heart responds to exercise.

The difference between a Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram and a regular Stress Echocardiogram:

The process for the two is pretty much the same, except that with a regular stress echocardiogram, patients are asked to walk/run on the treadmill to help increase the heart rate. Pictures are taken before the patient walks on the treadmill, right after the heart rate reaches capacity, and after the heart rate slows down.

Keywords during a stress test: 

  1. CARDIAC IMAGING / 心臟影像檢查 (xīnzàng yǐngxiàng jiǎnchá). Stress tests are one type of cardiac imaging.
  2. DOBUTAMINE STRESS ECHOCARDIOGRAM / 多巴酚丁胺負荷超聲心動圖 (fùhè chāoshēng xīndòngtú).
  3. DOBUTAMINE / 多巴酚丁胺  (duō bā fēn dīng àn). The medication used to stimulate the heart during the exam.
  4. INTRAVENOUS INJECTION (IV) / 靜脈注射 (jìngmài zhùshè). Medication is injected using an IV.
  5. INJECTION / 注射 (zhùshè). The medication, Dobutamine, will be injected into the bloodstream using an IV.
  6. STRESS TEST / 壓力測試 (yālì cèshì).
  7. SUPERVISE / 監都 (jiāndū). Sometimes the cardiologist will supervise the test along side the technicians
  8. BRA / 內衣(nèiyī) or 胸罩 (xiōngzhào). Patients are asked to remove everything from the waist up, including their bra.
  9. WAIST-UP / 腰部以上 (yāobù yǐshàng). Patients are asked to remove clothing from the waist up and put on a waist-length patient gown.
  10. CARDIOLOGIST / 心臟科醫師 (xīnzàngkē yīshī).
  11. ECHOCARDIOGRAM TECHNICIAN OR ECHO TECH/ 超聲心動圖技術員 (chāoshēng xīndòngtú jìshùyuán).
  12. SMALL BREATH / 吸小口氣 (xī xiǎokǒu qì). The echo tech may ask the patient to take in small breaths to help her get better pictures.
  13. HOLD BREATH / 屏住呼吸 (bǐng zhù hūxī). After asking the patient to take in a small breath, the echo tech will ask the patient to hold his breath for a bit.
  14. BREATHE, EXHALE / 吐氣 (tǔqì). The echo tech will instruct the patient to breathe out once they are done taking the pictures.
  15. LIE ON THE SIDE / 側躺 (cètǎng). Patients are asked to turn to their left side when images are taken with the ultrasound machine.
  16. LIE ON THE BACK / 平躺 (píngtǎng).
  17. WAITING ROOM / 候診室 (hòuzhěnshì).
  18. ULTRASOUND / 超聲波 (chāoshēngbō).
  19. GEL / 凝膠 (níngjiāo). A gel is applied to the transducer for easy navigation.
  20. COLD / 冰冰的 (bīng bīng de). The ultrasound gel is a little cold when it touches the skin.
  21. ECHOCARDIOGRAM (EKG) / 超聲心動圖 (chāoshēng xīndòngtú). Uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart.
  22. ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (ECG or EKG) / 心電圖. Traces the electrical activity of the heart.
  23. MONITOR / 螢幕 (yíngmù). The heart rate and pictures are shown on two different monitors.
  24. DOSE / 劑量 (jìliàng). During a Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram, a patient will receive a certain number of dosages of the medication to help the heart rate reach its capacity.
  25. SERIES / 系列 (xìliè). During the stress test, four sets of pictures are taken. One taken before medication is injected, two during when the medication is taking effect, and one after the medication has lost effect.
  26. EFFECT OF THE MEDICATION / 藥效 (yào xiào). The last series of pictures are taken when the effects of the medication are gone.
  27. TREADMILL / 跑步機 (pǎobù jī).
  28. RUN / 跑步 (pǎobù).
  29. JOG / 慢跑 (mànpǎo).
  30. WALK/ 走路 (zǒulù).
  31. BLANKET / 被子 (bèizi) or 毯子 (tǎnzi). Patients are often offered warm blankets during the test in case they feel chilly,
  32. WARMER / 暖箱 (nuǎn xiāng). Some places have warmers to heat up the blankets.
  33. RESULTS / 結果 (jiéguǒ). If the cardiologist is on site, he would give the patients the results right after completion of the echocardiogram. If not, the patient will receive a call with the results.

Good luck with your assignment and happy interpreting!

What Kind of Pain Do You Feel? (Chinese-English Medical Interpretation)

One of the big questions during medical appointments is the patient’s feeling of discomfort and pain. Below is a quick guide to the different types of pains that may come up during a medical interview, along with their Chinese translations. Hope you’ll find this helpful.

Type of Pain Symptoms Chinese Translation
Ache Continuous pain. 痛(tong) , 疼(téng), or疼痛 (téng tong)
Band-Like Pain A squeezing type of pain. 擠壓痛 (jǐ yā tòng)
Burning, searing Pain that feels like it was caused by heat or fire. 灼痛 (zhuó tòng) or燒灼感 (shāo zhuó gǎn, a burning sensation)
Cramps (menstrual) Menstrual pain. 經痛 (jīng tòng)
Cramping, grabbing pain Spasmodic muscular contraction. Quick pain that feels like spasms or a sudden snatch 绞痛 (jiǎo tong) or 痙攣 (jìng luán)
Cold Pain Pain that comes with cold sensations. Often seen around the lower back, abdomen, and joints. 冷痛 (lěng tong)
Dull pain Pain that exists persistently but without much intensity. Pain that’s bearable. 鈍痛 (dùn tòng), 悶痛 (mēn tòng), or 隱痛 (yǐn tòng)
Heavy Pain Pain with a feeling of being weighted down. Often seen in the head and limbs. 重痛 (zhòng tòng)
Moving pain A pain that moves continually to different body parts. 走窜痛 (zǒu chuàn tòng)
Needle-like A pain as if from being punctured with a needle. 刺痛 (cì tòng)
Pressing pain Feeling as if there’s a weight pushing against part of the body. 壓痛 (yā tòng)
Sharp pain Cutting or penetrating pain by a sharp or pointing instrument. 尖痛 (jiān tòng), 劇痛 (jù tòng)
Shooting, stabbing pain Intermittent flash of pain. 閃痛 (shǎn tong)
Splitting pain Sensation of being ripped apart. 撕裂痛 (sī liè tòng) or 撕裂般疼痛 (sī liè bān de  tòng)
Tingling pain Feelings of numbness as if being pricked by multiple needles. 麻刺痛 (má cì tòng)

What other types of pain have you encountered, or do you think I missed? Please share.

Happy interpreting!

6 Useful Phrases to Learn in a Foreign Language

I recently returned from a trip in Spain. I had such a great time in the historical country and immersed myself in its culture and devoured its delicious food. I’m pretty sure though, that if it weren’t for my sister-in-law’s fluency in Spanish, getting around would have proved difficult. While most of us English speakers may view English as the lingua franca and feel that everyone should speak it, that is not always the case.

Basic Phrases for Travelers to Learn_Language

It became clear to me half-way through my travels that knowing some basic phrases in the language used in the country would make life easier. The ability to communicate, even a little, with the locals in their own language, also makes me feel more adequate. I don’t think it’s fair to expect everyone to speak English when we are the visitors to someone else’s country.

The following are 6 phrases I found useful. I’ve also wrote them out in Chinese for travelers who are traveling to a Chinese-speaking country.

1. Where Are the Restrooms?
請問洗手間在哪裡?
I learned before Spain how to ask for the restrooms in Spanish, and it probably is the Spanish sentence I used the most, since we were outside all day traveling and touring the various landmarks. Figuring out how to say “Where is” and “How do I get to” in the foreign language will definitely come in handy.

qǐngwèn (請問) = excuse me, or may I ask. 請: please.  問: ask.
xǐshǒujiān (洗手間) = restrooms. 洗: wash. 手: hand. 間:  room.
zài nǎlǐ (在哪裡) = where is. 在: at. 哪裡:  where

2. Directions: Straight, Left turn, Right turn
直走/左轉/右轉
Knowing how to ask directions is one thing, but understanding the directions you get is another. In a museum in Spain, I asked a staff member for directions to the restrooms, and he was friendly enough to give me detailed instructions. Unfortunately, once he started speaking I knew I was in trouble–I couldn’t understand a word! All I could do was focus on his hand gestures and body language and hope that I will eventually find my way.

The ability to understand or recognize basic direction phrases will help you make sense of the friendly guidance you receive, and of course, get you where you need to go.

zhízǒu (直走) = to walk or go straight. 直: straight. 走: walk.
zuǒzhuǎn (左轉) = to turn left. 左: left. 轉: turn.
yòuzhuǎn (右轉) = to turn right. 右: right. 轉: turn.

3. Numbers. One to Ten.
一、二、三、四、五、六、七、八、九、十
Knowing your numbers will help you pay the right amount, get the right change, or get on the right bus.

On my flight back from Spain, the stewardess came up to me and asked me a question. While I couldn’t understand, I assumed that she was asking for my seat number or row number since she was directing others to their seats. 25F was my seat, but while I knew two (dos) and five (cinco), I didn’t know twenty-five, so instead of speaking I gestured two and five with my hands. Hand gestures work, but knowing how to say your numbers is important as well!

One to ten in Chinese:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
èr sān liù jiǔ shí

For numbers beyond ten, there is an easy formula, demonstrated below.
Two-digit numbers
11 = ten one = shí yī
25 = two ten five = èr shí wǔ
69 = six ten nine = liù shí jiǔ

3-digit numbers
Hundred = 百 bǎi
300 = three hundred = sān bǎi
350 = three hundred five ten = sān bǎi wǔ shí
356= three hundred five ten six = sān bǎi wǔ shí liù

4. I Don’t Understand Chinese
我聽不懂中文
If you’re in a position where you can’t understand a single word, no matter what is said, just let the person know. If you are asking for help, maybe you can find a different way to communicate—-through pictures, hand gestures, body language, etc. If you’re lucky the stranger might be able to help you find someone else who can speak your language.

wǒ tīngbùdǒng (我聽不懂) = I don’t understand or I can’t comprehend.
zhōngwén (中文) = Chinese.

5. Sorry
不好意思/對不起
Getting people’s attention in a polite way is important, especially if you want help.

In Chinese, you can say bùhǎoyìsi (不好意思), which literally means to be embarrassed. This is used in scenarios when you feel that you are inconveniencing someone, such as when you’re asking for directions from a stranger.

duìbuqǐ (對不起) is used when you are apologizing, usually for doing something wrong.

6.Thank you. 
謝謝 (xièxie)
We are polite travelers, so of course we need to say our thank yous.

What are some phrases you find useful when traveling? Leave a comment!

Safe travels and happy learning!

Don’t Be A Choosy Language Learner

Translation is always in the back of my mind, so I’m always thinking: How would I say this in Chinese? or How would I say this in English? And sometimes the strangest things strike my interest. This time, they’re the phrases in an article on balding and hair loss.

Language is ever-changing, and a good linguist–translator or interpreter–always finds ways to expand her vocabulary. There are topics or occurrences in our daily lives that we don’t always think are important enough to further explore, when actually, anything can be a learning experience. Don’t discriminate against odd subjects!

Okay, so let’s get into the hair loss/ baldness vocabulary from the article I read on udn.com, a Taiwanese online news source.

Language Learning Odd Topics

  1. 頭髮 (tóufa)- hair (on the head). 頭: head; 髮: hair (on the head).
  2. 髮線 (fàxiàn)- hairline. 髮: hair (on the head). 線: line.
  3. 禿頭 tūtóu- baldness.
  4. 雄性禿 xióngxìng tū- male pattern baldness. 雄性: male. 禿: bald(ness).
  5. 額髮線後退 (é fàxiàn hòutuì)- receding hairline. 額: forehead. 額髮線: forelock. 後退: to go back.
  6. 促進生髮的藥物 (cùjìn shēngfà de yàowù)- medication that promotes hair growth. 促進: promote. 生: grow. 髮: hair. 藥物: drug, medicine.
  7. 電燈泡 (diàndēngpào) 電火球仔 dian hui chu ah>- lightbulb. Used to describe a completely bald head. Note: Another usage for 電燈泡 (diàndēngpào) is what American English terms “third wheel.”
  8. 植髮中心 (zhífà zhōngxīn)- center for hair transplants. 植: to plant. 髮: hair. 中心: center.
  9. 急性休止期落髮 (jíxìng xiūzhǐqī luòfà)- acute telogen effluvium. Hair loss caused by illnesses. 急性: acute.
  10. 圓禿 (yuántū) or 鬼剃頭 (guǐtìtóu)- alopecia areata, also known as spot baldness. 圓: round, circle. 禿: baldness. 鬼: ghost. 剃頭: to shave one’s head. 鬼剃頭 is the colloquial usage.
  11. 假髮 (jiǎfà)- wig. 假: fake; 髮: hair.
  12. 生髮水 (shēngfàshuǐ)- hair regrowth tonic. 生: grow. 髮: hair. 水: water, solution.

Side note, have you heard that washing your hair every day isn’t good for you and may lead to hair loss? That actually isn’t always the case. We should actually wash our hair and scalp regularly to avoid clogged hair follicles, which can lead to more hair loss.

Hope you learned something today!

Chinese-English Vocabulary Builder

  1. 有求必應 (yǒu​ qiú ​bì ​yìng)-to get whatever is asked. 有: to have. 求: to ask, to wish, to request. 必: must. 應: respond.
    例句: 身為獨女的她總是有求必應。
    Example: As the only child, she always gets what she wants.
  2. 悼念(dào niàn)-to grieve, to mourn. 悼: to grieve, to lament. 念: to think of, to remember.
    例句: 人們用著自己的信仰方式來悼唸過世的親友。
    Example: People use their own religions to mourn friends and family who have passed away.
  3. 熱身 (rè​ shēn)-warm-up. 熱: hot, warm. 身: body.
    例句: 若想儘可能的必免運動傷害,運動前的熱身運動很重要。
    Example: To avoid the possibility of sports injuries , warm-up exercises before the actual sport is very important.
  4. 惆悵 (chóu​ chàng)- melancholy, depression
    例句: 考試沒考好讓他覺得很惆悵。
    Example: He felt depressed because he didn’t do well on the test.
  5. 恍神 (huǎng​ shén)- to zone out, to space out
    例句: 忙祿的時候,工作可以讓我轉移注意力,但一旦有空閒,想起煩心的事,我就變得有點恍惚。
    Example: Work can distract me when I’m busy, but whenver there’s a spare moment and I’m reminded of my worries , I tend to become spacey.
  6. 遲疑 (chí​ yí)-hesitation, reservation. 遲: delay. 疑: doubt.
    例句: 有些決定得馬上做,一旦遲疑便可能錯失良機。
    Example: Some decisions need to be made on the spot, as hesitation might lead to a missed  opportunity.
  7. 騰出時間 (téng chū shí​ jiān )-to make time. 騰出: to make, to part. 時間: time.
    例句: 做子女的,應該儘可能的騰出時間陪陪父母。
    Example: Children should try their best to make time for their parents.
  8. 號淘大哭-to cry loudly. 號淘: loud cry. 哭: cry.
    例句: 小孩子第一天上安親班,常常在爸爸媽媽離開去上班以後捨不得的號淘大哭。
    Example: On the first day of daycare, children often cry out when they see their parents leave for work.
  9. 似懂非懂 (sì​ dǒng ​fēi​ dǒng)-to appear as if understanding, but not really. 似: seemingly, as if. 懂: understand.
    例句: 她似懂非懂的聽著大人說話,但心裡明白這關乎件嚴重的事情。
    Example: Although she only understood part of the conversation between the adults, she was certain that it was about something serious.
  10. 內疚(nèi​ jiù)-to feel guilty, to have qualms about. 內: within, inside. 疚: sorrow.
    例句: 她因為偷了媽媽的錢深感內疚,但又不願意把錢放回去。
    Example: She feels bad for stealing from her mother, but she’s also unwilling to put the money back.