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This Doctor Says Words Matter


This article comes in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s a great read by a doctor who seems to think that we should not call interpreters “translators.”

Why not? First, Dr. Anna DeForest values language. She loves “phonemes, semantics, and syntax.” (The perfect doctor for translators and interpreters!) So here’s her take.

Doctors would not like it if “someone called a PICC line a central venous catheter, or confused hematology with phlebotomy. Words mean things.” She is upset “that doctors refuse to learn the right word to title the people whose sole occupation is the transmission of vital thoughts and pleas and questions, of words, between doctors and patients.”

She closes: “Let’s use the right word for the people who make our patients’ words their job.”

Dear Dr. DeForest: interpreters and translators salute you!

P.S. Our thanks to Pedro Diaz of Children’s National for passing this article on.


Article originally found in INTERSECT weekly update from December 15, 2017.

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