Thrown in the deep end: Challenges of interpreting informal paramedic language

Ineke Hendrika Martine Crezee, Lynn Grant


At the authors’ university, interpreting pedagogies reflect the situated-learning theories proposed by Lave and Wenger (1991) and others especially in specialized areas such as health and legal interpreting. This paper reports on a project where health interpreting students in a language-neutral cohort were given the opportunity to practise interpreting with the aid of authentic material involving paramedic-patient interactions. Authentic audiovisual clips were posted online. Pauses and blank screens were inserted at points where the speakers took turns, to allow student interpreters to record their interpretation with minimal disruption. Recordings were anonymized and detailed feedback was given by language-specific markers following performance-based criteria. Formative feedback was passed on for students to reflect on their performance. Error analysis was carried out to measure students’ performance when interpreting natural language. Student responses were gauged using pre- and post-intervention surveys. Students enjoyed being able to face actual challenges of interpreting ‘in the setting’, with the added advantage of receiving formative feedback that enabled them to reflect upon and improve their performance. One of the main challenges identified was that of interpreting informal paramedic discourse in a manner that was culturally appropriate, achieving pragmatic equivalence (Hale, 2014).


Innovative interpreting pedagogies, audiovisual interpreting practice, idiomatic language, colloquial language, authentic paramedic language, pragmatic equivalence

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