Publication details [#59878]

Miletich, Marko. 2015. Accounting for nonverbal communication in interpreter-mediated events in healthcare settings. Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts 1 (2) : 162–181.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


Interpreters express in one language what is said in another. Verbal language is, of course, the basic system by which humans often interact, and a large percentage of our communication is based on the exchange of words. Bilingual language skills are fundamental and are, as might be expected, emphasized in any interpreter-training program. Issues dealing with verbal language such as knowledge of medical terminology in two languages, cognates, false cognates, syntactical structures, and idioms are essential. They should be a very important part of the training provided for interpreters working in many public service settings (legal, health, education, housing, environmental health, and social services). Although the organized system of vocal sounds, known as verbal language, is fundamental to communicate meaning between individuals, there are also nonverbal features that are utilized in everyday conversation (including interpreted-mediated events). Following Fernando Poyatos (2002a, 2002b, 2002c), this article briefly examines the triple structure of discourse, language-paralanguage-kinesics, and its relevance for interpreters. One of the main differences between public service interpreting and other types of interpreting (such as conference interpreting) is the opportunity for interpreters to intervene, particularly in healthcare settings. These interventions occur in order to stop the flow of the conversation and clarify terms, expressions or ideas; point to a misunderstanding; signal a cultural reference; and/or relay the meaning of specific nonverbal behavior. The idea of the interpreter as mere conduit has now been put into question, and with reason. S/he is now regarded as a visible co-participant in a verbal and nonverbal interaction that allows two people from different languages and cultures to communicate with each other. Because nonverbal communication is an important part of the triadic interpreted-mediated events that take place in healthcare settings, it is becoming much more visible as part of interpreter education. The present article first considers communication through nonverbal signs, and often just through nonverbal signs. Next, it stresses the need for interpreters to account for nonverbal cues in the routine triadic events taking place in healthcare settings. The article adopts an expanded definition of interpreting, a particular notion of language, and a constructivist approach to learning.