By Liliana Valenzuela – ¡Ahora Sí!
Imagine having to tell your grandmother that she has cancer when you haven’t assimilated the news yourself. That’s what happened to Mark Villafuerte when he had to interpret between English and Spanish for his ailing grandma, when he was in his twenties.
With the growing number of people who speak Spanish at home — estimated to reach 43.1 million in 2020 in the United States, according to the Census Bureau 2011 projections — there’s more need than ever for professionally-trained medical interpreters, who bridge languages and cultures. In the Austin Independent School District alone, three out of five students are Hispanic (60 percent) and at least 24,000 students speak Spanish at home. Interpreters provide an essential service, and there are various training options locally.
Villafuerte, now 40, is a professional medical interpreter. He turned what had been years of informal training working different jobs in the medical field, plus a one-week intensive program at the University of Texas, into a career. He remembers that prior to this, because he was bilingual, “I would be pulled from one room to another” to communicate between doctors and nurses who only spoke English and patients who only spoke Spanish.
Not too long ago, untrained volunteers and even children were asked to translate sensitive information to patients, without knowing the proper medical terms or really understanding what was going on medically with the person.
“Am I saying this right?,” Villafuerte remembers thinking. “It’s hard for a kid to be responsible for an adult.”
To read more of this article courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman —> click here.