health care interpreting, medical interpreting, terminology

Not Everything Is an “Aparato”: More Terminology for Interpreters

After my last terminology post, I asked the interpreters in my Language Services Department what other terminology could make for a good read.  One of them wrote to me, What do you think  about medical equipment such as stethoscope, speculum, forceps, otoscope,  angioscope, brace, splint, defibrillator, wound vac, wound drainage bag, etc. 

It reminded me of how, back in the day, I struggled with equipment terminology, and still do.  Full confession: Until I could get over that learning curve, pretty much everything was an “aparato”, just a generic but fancier-sounding word for “thing”.  As in, We’re going to take this thing here and put it down your throat, down your esophagus, into your stomach and the first part of your small intestine (bonus terminology: that’s what they tell patients before doing an upper endoscopy).  But not every thing can be a “thing”, you guys.  So I took the suggestion above and ran with it (thanks, Maria!).  Here’s my list of most commonly-interpreted “things” in the hospital, to help step up our game.

Diabetes education:  Start with meter (you’ll probably find a big fancy word equivalent in your patient’s language, but know that many Spanish-speaking patients call it simply, “máquina”), test strips, log (like, the log book where the patient writes down his sugar numbers), lancets.  Then start thinking about insulin injections.  Syringes, stopper, needle, bottle (the one the insulin is in), cap, alcohol wipes/pads.  All of this will make more sense in context.  I found this really nice article for you to read that includes the pen injection and the syringe injection.

Asthma stuff:  Knowing the names for the equipment used for treatment is helpful, like inhaler, spacer, nebulizer, and mask.  Just like most people will call their diabetes meter a  “máquina”,I’ve heard most people use “máquina”, for nebulizer.  It’s always good to have more than one equivalent in mind.  This terminology is especially helpful if you’re in an Emergency Department, a pulmonary clinic, or a peds inpatient unit.

Stuff for people who need help getting around: Wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers, belts (the one physcial therapists use).

Stuff that holds our insides together: Mesh, plates and screws.  Depending on where you’re working, you might hear about a mesh stent (learn a good equivalent for “stent”, and also know that your patient may just stay “stent”), and in my experience, mesh is commonly used to repair hernias, which is a pretty common surgery.  If that doesn’t make sense, I’d recommend reading up on hernias.  You’ll run in to plates and screws interpreting for orthopaedic surgeons.  But plates and screws could come up in any visit where they’re asking for a medical history, or if they’re getting a patient ready for MRI.

Stuff that holds our outsides together: You’ll run into a lot of this in OT, or if you go to a clinic with a name like, “Wheelchair Fitting” or “Brace Shop”.  Braces (go ahead and learn the equivalents for the kind on your teeth and the kind on your limbs, torso, or neck), casts, splints, slings, stitches, staples, glue, tape, straps, and bandages.

Quick lesson here about scopes: When you hear the scope suffix, you know that they’re talking about an instrument that’s used to look at something.  So if you run in to a word that ends in scope, you just need to know what the other part of the word means, and then you’ll know what they’re looking at.  Stethoscope, otoscope, endoscope.  Bonus lesson: When you hear a word that ends in scopy, it’s means they’re doing a procedure to look at something: Colonoscopy (the colon), cystoscopy (the bladder), bronchoscopy (the bronchi), ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography–yes, it comes up, and depending on the hospital where you’re working, you might have an ERCP clinic), and colposcopy (heads up–sounds a lot like colonoscopy, but is totally different).  Those are most common ones from my experience, and Wikipedia has a killer endoscopy article here that mentions all of these and more, with links to separate articles about each procedure.  And if you’re in the mood to see strangers’ insides, you can look at videos of these, and many, many more procedure at Medline Plus.  Having the visual can help your short-term memory in the moment of your interpretation.

What would you add to the list?  Want to help out your fellow interpreters and share something from your personal glossary?  Let us all know in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Not Everything Is an “Aparato”: More Terminology for Interpreters”

  1. I have not checked previous posts but I think “pain” will be a good topic. I am from Mexico and it took me a while to be able to distinguish between the different types of pains that we use in the USA.

  2. Thank you so much for this blog!!!
    I only wish i knew about this BEFORE i took the oral exam! (I’m pretty confident that I didn’t pass). But its TOTALLY cool, beciase I’ve already rescheduled and i found this AMAZING interpreter blog!!!
    Thanks so much Liz!
    I live in a part of rhe south where we don’t have interpreters (there are 3 nationally certified interpreters within. A 4hour radius).
    I dont have the opportunity to speak much , but I have something to study!!!
    You are the best!!

  3. Hi Mirrissa! I’m so happy you like the blog! If you don’t pass you exam, I assure you that you will not be the first to retake an interpreting exam. The important thing is to understand what you need to work on, and put your energy there when you practice. Good luck!

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