The Effect of Language Barrier and Non-professional Interpreters on the Accuracy of Patient-physician Communication in Emergency department

Patients’ relatives commonly play the role of interpreters in medical interviews. These non-professional interpreters are prone to potentially-dangerous translation errors.


The present study was conducted to evaluate these errors in the emergency department (ED).


Twenty interviews with Azeri patients were recorded. They were unable of speaking Persian and therefore accompanied by a relative as a Persian interpreter. These records were presented to two physicians as native Azeri speakers to determine the clinical importance of the interpreters' errors according to their medical expertise.


The total omission and addition errors observed in Azeri to Persian translation were significantly more than in Persian to Azeri translation, while mistranslation errors were almost the same. The relatives with higher levels of education made fewer errors, and those living with the patients made significantly more addition errors.


Non-professional interpreters cannot effectively facilitate patient-physician communication, as their translation is error-prone, especially in terms of translating their native language into official languages. These errors can have important clinical ramifications.

Article Type:
Research/Original Article
Advanced Journal of Emergency Medicine, Volume:3 Issue:4, 2019
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