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The Finding and Use of Interpreters

Deborah Hwa-Froelich

November 18, 2002



In a school setting, how to I find an appropriate interpreter for a child who has very limited English skills and, from family report, may have a language disorder in his native language?


Access to quality interpreters and their services is only part of what is needed to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to a child from a diverse background with a possible communication disorder. Communication professionals need to know how to adapt their knowledge of assessment and intervention practices in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways and communicate these adaptations to interpreters so they can direct the client or elicit communication behaviors in appropriate ways.

Assuming practitioners have the skills and knowledge base to work with interpreters. Langdon and Cheng in their book Collaborating with interpreters and translators: A guide for Communication Disorders Professionals (Thinking Publications, 2002) recommend the following responsibilities of the interpreter or translator in their book:

a) Oral or written proficiency with two languages. (Speaking with an accent does not limit proficiency in any language). The interpreter should be able to demonstrate these skills or present a certificate of completion from an interpreter training program verifying proficiency in multiple languages; b) Knowledge of two cultures with an understanding of the significance of nonverbal communication; c) Ability to convey the same meaning in two languages d) Knowledge of terminology that applies to a designated specialty, speech-language pathology or audiology (Although interpreters may not come prepared with this specific professional knowledge, communication professionals can provide this training); e) Familiarity with dialectal differences within a language; and f) Ability to adapt and process various pronunciations and grammatical uses inherent in the speech of individuals with communication disorders (pp. 101-102).

The following are a few web resources for locating interpreter services:

Part of this response was taken from the following book review: Hwa-Froelich, D. A. (In Press). Ways to work with Interpreters and Translators. Book review of [Langdon, H. W. & Cheng, L. L. (2002). Collaborating with interpreters and translators. Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.] Word of Mouth.


deborah hwa froelich

Deborah Hwa-Froelich

Assistant Professor

Deborah Hwa-Froelich, assistant professor for the Communication Sciences/Disorders Department at Saint Louis University, conducts research in multicultural issues in assessment/intervention, child language, and social-emotional language disorders. She is a reviewer for Communication Disorders Quarterly and Speech Pathology Online, and is a contributing board member for the Word of Mouth Newsletter.

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