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The Problem With Interpreters: Communicating With Spanish-Speaking Patients
Carmen Vasquez; Rafael Art. Javier
Psychiatric Services 1991; doi:
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New York University—Bellevue clinical internship at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City

Center for Psychological Services and Clinical Studies at St. John's University, Grand Central and Utopia Parkways, Jamaica, New York 11439

© 1991 by the American Psychiatric Association

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The information obtained from a non-English-speaking psychiatric patient through an untrained interpreter can be inaccurate and misleading. The authors briefly outline the most common errors that untrained interpreters make, including omission, addition, condensation, substitution, and role exchange. They present two case examples, one in which misinterpretation led to minimization of a patient's suicide attempt and the other in which a patient's suicidality was exaggerated. They condude that clinicians should observe the behaviors of both the patient and the interpreter for indications of errors that might distort or obscure the communication.

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