Paper by A. Cox and K. Maryns on multilingual consultations in urgent medical care

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Picture taken by Sherri Abendroth and published with a free commons license

The paper ‘Multilingual consultations in urgent medical care’ by A. Cox & K. Maryns (in Working Papers in Urban Language and Literacies, King’s College London, Centre for Language Discourse & Communication, 2019) explores multilingual strategies used in the absence of professional interpreters based on data from real-life consultations in a linguistically diverse Emergency Department. It finds that despite their efforts, the participants in the analysed case-studies lacked the linguistic and interpreting subtleties needed to perform complex linguistic-interactional tasks, and in this way, a form of ‘false fluency’ was created. Ad hoc multilingual solutions, significant as they are, require additional language support to avoid diagnostic insecurity. The paper recommends that at the level of patient management, a ‘linguistic assessment’ of patients could potentially be integrated into the triage process, and clinicians should be trained on how to recognize and remediate communication problems under the specific conditions of the emergency department.

Abstract

More than half of the world’s displaced population has moved to urban or per urban areas, and in Brussels, the superdiverse Belgian and European capital, the emergency care sector provides an important setting for analyzing the multilingual challenges faced by health practitioners. To gain a better insight in the interactional dynamics of emergency department consultations with immigrant patients, this paper focuses on multilingual strategies that include ‘ad hoc’ communicative solutions used in the absence of professional interpreters(lingua franca use, non-verbal communication, medical translation software, language mediation through companions or hospital staff). Despite their efforts, the participants in our two case-studies lacked the linguistic and interpreting subtleties needed to perform complex linguistic-interactional tasks, and in this way, a form of ‘false fluency’ was created. Ad hoc multilingual solutions, significant as they are, require additional language support to avoid diagnostic insecurity. At the level of patient management, a ‘linguistic assessment’ of patients could potentially be integrated into the triage process, and clinicians should be trained on how to recognize and remediate communication problems under the specific conditions of the emergency department.

You can read or download the paper via the following links on Academia and Researchgate:

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