Medical Interpreter Training

Written by rosalyn goh
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Medical Interpreter Training
Medical dictionary (medical text image by funkatronik from

Interpreters serve as important facilitators for better communication in any cross-cultural society. Medical interpreters, also called health care interpreters and translators, help patients with limited English ability communicate with medical staff. Interpreters in this field must possess a grasp of medical terminology as well as sensitivity to other cultures.

Nature of Work

Medical interpreters work in a variety of medical settings from hospitals to clinics. They must be able to work under pressure and be sensitive to a wide variety of people. Work schedule can vary, as medical care is required 24/7, and many interpreters may work long hours.

Education Required

A high school diploma or GED is required. Proficiency in English must be demonstrated. Additional proficiency in another language must also be proven either through a degree earned in that language, ACTFL exams (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), 15+ semester credit hours of that language, or graduation from high school in a country where the second language is spoken. Basic knowledge of medical terminology, treatments, and procedures is also necessary. There are programs available that train and certify medical interpreters.

In-Demand Languages

The top 22 languages in demand are listed on the International Medical Interpreters Association website. They are Arabic, Bosnian, Cantonese, Croatian, Farsi, French, German, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

Various Certifications

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters and International Medical Interpreters Association both offer certifications for working medical interpreters. Certifications are not currently required to work as a medical interpreter but can demonstrate proficiency in the field. Both certifications require work experience as well demonstrated proficiency in both English and another language. Medical interpreter education at a registered training program is also required. The candidate must be 18 and possess a high school diploma or GED to meet minimum requirements.

Member Organizations

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters and International Medical Interpreters Association are both organisations that medical interpreters can join. Both organisations seek to standardise the education that current medical interpreters must possess. Certification with both organisations allows medical groups employing interpreters to know that they will get a qualified and competent medical interpreter.

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