Introduction to Healthcare for Spanish-speaking Interpreters and Translators; Understanding Patients’ Voices: A Multi-Method Approach to Health Discourse

Introduction to Healthcare for Spanish-speaking Interpreters and Translators

Reviewed by: Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo
Author(s): Ineke H.M. Crezee, Holly Mikkelson, and Laura Monzon-Storey
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Publication date: 2015
Number of pages and/or entries: 388 pages
ISBN: 978 90 272 1222 1
Price: $39.00 (paperback), $149.00 (hardcover, can also be purchased electronically)
Available from:

Zampaulo_cover01Two resources that may prove incredibly useful, both on the academic level for Spanish<>English interpreting students and faculty, and on the practical level for professional interpreters, are Introduction to Healthcare for Spanish-Speaking Interpreters and Translators, by Ineke H.M. Crezee, Holly Mikkelson, and Laura Monzon-Storey, and Understanding Patients’ Voices: A Multi-Method Approach to Health Discourses, edited by Marta Antón and Elizabeth M. Goering. The former would also be a welcome addition to translators’ bookshelves, especially those who are fairly new to the profession. The latter offers a more advanced look at research design, methodology, and interdisciplinary work involving discourse among diabetic patients.

Introduction to Healthcare for Spanish-Speaking Interpreters and Translators is an updated version, based on the 2013 edition. The 2015 publication now provides Spanish glossaries and a chapter dedicated to the U.S. insurance system—details that make this resource stand out from others of its kind. As the authors describe, this book is a resource for those who are not formally trained as healthcare professionals. Even so, it is an introduction that will certainly serve as a useful tool to professors in translation and interpreting programs, interpreter trainers, and beginning professionals in the translation and interpreting fields.


Students in one of the authors’ courses influenced the layout of the book. The format seems to bode well for the audience, as it is organized logically. While the authors do state that the book is not meant to be comprehensive or go into the finer details of each topic, it does very much give readers a thorough introduction to various specializations in the medical field and terminology used in several Spanish dialects.

  • Part I provides a general overview of the healthcare interpreting profession, as well as a description of the interpreter’s role, the code of ethics, and the responsibilities associated with the profession. Chapter 4, in particular, provides an overview of the U.S. insurance system, a topic that has seen controversial changes as of late, but one which healthcare interpreters and translators would be well served to learn more about. The authors touch on many types of insurance, coverage exclusions, billing, and the recent Affordable Care Act. A special highlight of this chapter is the glossary of insurance terms.
  • In Part II, the reader will find 12 chapters dedicated to healthcare settings, including specialty clinics, different hospital departments, and more in-depth information on diagnostic tests, hospital procedures, admission and discharge, common explanations for admission to the emergency room, and pre- and post-operative procedures. Chapter 9 discusses informed consent, a subject of great importance to both healthcare interpreters, who are present to interpret during consent, and translators, who often translate such forms. While meant to be an overview of the informed consent process, this chapter might be enhanced by including a discussion on informed consent forms for patients in a clinical trial, which tend to be more extensive than those utilized for routine procedures.
  • Part III may be the one that students in an introductory class or training course will be most eager to read, as it delves into healthcare specialties and delivers various specialty-based glossaries practical to healthcare interpreters and translators, in addition to common abbreviations and illustrations of related anatomy. For example, in Chapter 25, the section on the pancreas offers a description of types and symptoms of diabetes, complications, diagnostic tests and their abbreviations, and an illustration of insulin resistance. The visuals found in Part III very much enrich readers’ understanding of conditions and human anatomy.
Overall Evaluation

This introduction into healthcare interpreting is one not to be missed for those entering the profession. While it would be quite difficult to discuss all specializations and settings a healthcare interpreter might encounter, the authors did a thorough job of covering the most common situations an interpreter might face, as well as general discussions of issues that interpreters face on a daily basis. Translators are also very well served by this book, as it can provide a deeper sense of a patient’s condition or situations in which he or she might need specific forms or information translated for various procedures and tests. The index is thorough, allowing the reader to look up specific topics quickly to get a broad sense of certain areas of medicine. Even the most experienced translators and interpreters will likely find this resource valuable.

Understanding Patients’ Voices: A Multi-Method Approach to Health Discourse

Edited by: Marta Antón and Elizabeth M. Goering
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Publication date: 2015
Number of pages and/or entries: 185 pages
ISBN: 978 90 272 5662 1
Price: $135.00 hardcover (this can also be purchased electronically)
Available from:

Zampaulo_Cover02Diabetes is a disease that affects 29.1 million people (9.3% of the population) in the United States.1 The authors of Understanding Patients’ Voices: A Multi-Method Approach to Health Discourse examined the self-management of diabetes by using an interdisciplinary approach over a period of several years. While such a volume may not seem that useful to interpreters or translators at first, those who wish to take a closer look at how language use and the management of a chronic disease relate will find the authors’ approaches intriguing. Readers may even take this new perspective into account when translating or interpreting similar topics from the source language into the target language.


This book is also divided into three parts. Part I focuses on the research design with an overview of health discourse and chronic disease management. Antón and Goering also describe the different methods used for analyzing the data gathered from interviews of 65 patients with type 2 diabetes. By including nine interview sections, the authors were able to ask patients to describe their experience with diabetes and their feelings about managing the disease. Interviewees were also asked to give a description of their outlook on life, adherence to medication, and various other areas of importance to their methodology. The authors used formulated questions to determine whether there is a relationship between patients’ management of the disease and their proficiency in English.

In Part II, the authors describe their data analysis approaches, explaining the use of corpus-based methods in studying how patients express themselves. They also touch on the use of metaphors diabetic patients use to talk about their conditions in their own words. They found that metaphors of “error” and “disequilibrium” are often used in descriptions.

Antón also shares how the linguistic expression of agency and the degree of usage in patients who self-manage diabetes can differ between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking patients. She notes that Spanish-speaking patients tend to talk with a higher frequency of agency when discussing food and medication, while English speakers do so more when talking about medical management and source of information. Antón recommends that healthcare providers know more about a patient’s culture and history to better understand the way he or she expresses diabetes self-management. I would argue that interpreters, and possibly translators, if dealing with written surveys, should also be aware of these factors and how they can affect one’s expression of dealing with chronic diseases and adherence to medications.

In Chapter 7, Antón, Ulla Connor, Kathryn Lauten, and Stephanie Balunda delve further into the contrast of healthcare literacy between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking patients in the U.S. healthcare system. They found that different ethnicities prefer different sources of health information. For example, while Spanish speakers prefer information to be oral, English speakers gave a higher rating to print material. The author also gave subjects a reading comprehension test. Their results show that “… 36% of SS [Spanish-speaking] patients were not able to extract basic information from a PIL [patient information leaflet] in Spanish, a common source of information about medications.” This chapter may be of special interest to interpreters who regularly interpret in clinical settings. Although patients receive a vast amount of information in written form, interpreters and healthcare providers should be aware that a patient’s level of literacy may limit comprehension and access to information about a condition and how to manage it. This can result in misunderstandings and additional health issues for the patient if ignored.

Overall Evaluation

The authors conclude this volume by discussing how these interdisciplinary approaches to their research may apply to the practice of providing care to patients with diabetes. While healthcare interpreters and translators may not consider this book useful at first glance, it’s clear that the discourse analysis discussion and examples given by the authors based on their interviews provide a different view of language use in self-management discussions. This perspective is one that will inspire interpreters and translators to listen or read more carefully when working into the target language so as to fully embrace the spirit of the speaker’s message. 

  1. 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner and chief executive officer of Accessible Translation Solutions. Although she began her career as a medical interpreter, she specializes in Portuguese and Spanish into English medical and life science translation. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, she has a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She has served two terms as the Administrator of ATA’s Medical Division and is the chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee. She was elected to ATA’s Board of Directors in 2014 for a three-year term. She is an active member of Women for Economic Leadership and Development and has served as a mentor for the Latina Mentoring Program in Columbus, Ohio. Contact:

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