When people dream of jetting off somewhere exotic on holiday, they tend not to imagine spending part of their break within the confines of a foreign hospital. However, for many travelers, that’s precisely what happens. So what should you do if you need treatment but don’t speak the local language well enough to confidently use medical terminology? Don’t worry – you don’t have to suffer in silence!

Interpreting solutions for those traveling abroad

What are the chances you will fall ill while on holiday? Well, Travel Medicine reports that each year some eight million Americans (of the 30 million who travel abroad) go to countries that are known to have high incidences of tropical and infectious diseases. Here in the UK, the Foreign Office reports that 10 Britons per day are hospitalized while overseas. Taking time off seems to be a dangerous pursuit! 

If you need to speak to a doctor while you’re on holiday, but don’t speak the language, the experience can be daunting. Thankfully, there is a range of translation services and interpretation services out there to help. 

One option for medical translation is to use an app on your phone or tablet. This can be a cost-effective way to communicate with health professionals in a hurry. However, bear in mind that computerized translation isn’t always perfect and is unlikely to be able to deal with medical abbreviations. Using professional interpreting solutions is, therefore, a more advisable option.  

A quick introduction to interpretation services

Have you used an interpretation service before? If not, then here’s an informative resource on how useful interpretation services are and the different types of professional interpreters that you can use. 

Your interpreter won’t just be a qualified linguist. Yes, they will be able to translate Spanish to English (or whatever language pairing you need) with ease, but they will also be well versed in medical terminology and what it means. This means that they can tell you precisely what the doctors and nurses are saying, allowing you to understand what it is that’s wrong with you and what treatment options are available.

Medical interpreters for patients around the world

Qualified medical interpreters can assist you in communicating with healthcare professionals who are treating you. You can hire them through an interpretation or translation agency, many of which offer interpretation services over both the telephone and video calling. 

This means that, wherever you are in the world, provided you can access a telephone or the internet then you should be able to get a hold of a medical translator to assist you.

Top tips for working with professional interpreters

There’s plenty to bear in mind when you hire a professional interpreter to help with your medical treatment abroad. First, remember that rates can vary significantly, just as they can for any other service. As such, there’s no harm in shopping around, assuming that you have the time to do so. 

It’s also important to inform your health insurance company or travel insurance company as soon as you realize that you need medical treatment while you’re on holiday. They will need to give you important policy-related information but can also be a source of advice and comfort during what can be a scary time. 

When booking an interpreter, remember to be clear with the agency that it’s a medical interpreter that you need. Interpreters have all kinds of different specializations, so explain the situation clearly to ensure that your interpreter has the right skill set to help you. 

Finally, don’t panic! Falling ill while you’re abroad, particularly if you don’t speak the language well, can be a frightening experience, but there are plenty of people and resources available to help you, including professional interpreters. This article, for example, is a good resource for useful tips on hiring an interpreter and ensuring that the professional you engage is the ideal fit for your needs. 

Will you need translation services, as well as interpretation services?

If the treatment that you undergo while overseas is serious, bear in mind that professional translation services might be of use to you, as well as interpretation services. When you return home, for example, you might need further treatment or some form of ongoing care. 

Having a professionally translated set of medical documents, which explains precisely what treatment you underwent while abroad and why can be a major help to the healthcare professionals who are in charge of treating you once you’re back home. 

As such, it’s a sensible idea to seek out an agency that provides both interpretation and translation services. That way, you can deal with a single point of contact (your dedicated account manager) throughout your medical treatment, rather than having to manage two agencies at once in order to receive the service you need.