chapter  14
15 Pages

An ethnographic longitudinal approach to the development of assessment for advanced competencies of medical interpreters


Medical interpreters are highly proficient individuals who are capable of processing and conveying information in two languages, often under conditions of critical and extreme pressure. Yet, our understanding of the language competencies used by advanced language users is only incipient, as these superior L1/L2 users have seldom been studied (Valdés and Angelelli, 2003). This chapter reports on the application of three-year-long ethnographic data (Angelelli, 2001, 2004a) from a bilingual medical setting to develop tests that assess linguistic, sociolinguistic, and interpreting competencies of medical interpreters across three languages. During a total of 37 months (22 for Spanish and 15 for Cantonese and Hmong) medical interpreters were observed and recorded as they worked with English-speaking healthcare providers and Cantonese, Hmong, and Spanish-speaking patients. The data were subsequently used to develop the tests in these three languages for the healthcare setting (Angelelli, 2003a). The rich data collected provided a unique window into the language competencies used by advanced/superior language users. The tests are now used to screen individuals who want to get into medical interpreting programs as well as those who want to work in healthcare settings interacting with monolingual speakers of languages other than English. This unique longitudinally driven and contextualized approach to the development of assessment of language proficiency and interpreting skills advanced proficiency presents challenges and strengths that are also discussed in this chapter.