Medical Emergencies and Language Translation

This is the first in a series of stories about emergency medical experiences and language translation. First responders, travelers, and immigrants are sharing the scary, humorous, or dramatic events where the language barrier got in the way of the right treatment at the right time.

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We interviewed a female, age 27 from USA. Here is her story: Continue reading

Medical Terms Translated Incorrectly and the Call for Standardization


In Cambodia, translating medical trauma is becoming increasingly difficult. For translating medical terms and abstract concepts to English, “the problem [is] that there were no agreed and consistent translations.” This is an intriguing dilemma because there is a psychological side to the problem. The words for depression and anxiety are often vague Cambodian phrases such as the phrase “thelea-tdeuk-ceut (the water in my heart has fallen)” to describe depression, according to an article devoted specifically to this issue. Continue reading

Lost in (Medical) Translation


A language barrier in an emergency medical situation can have dreadful results.

According to a New England Journal of Medicine report from 2006, “Some 49.6 million Americans (18.7 percent of U.S. residents) speak a language other than English at home; 22.3 million (8.4 percent) have limited English proficiency, speaking English less than “very well,” according to self-ratings.” Continue reading

EMS Language Barrier Stories on Reddit


Reddit provides a forum for organizing a variety of topics, which in turn, makes it easier for the general public to stumble upon these things. Don’t believe me?  I invite you to type the topic of your choice into the subreddit search bar and see if anything pops up. Chances are they’ve got multiple forums where people are discussing the exact topic (or at least something really close to) what you were looking for. Continue reading

Dallas First Responders in Need of Translators



In Dallas, Texas, 37 percent of the population is estimated to speak Spanish. Language barriers in emergency situations are increasingly common and a recurring problem for first responders – fire fighters, police, and paramedics. The 1st Minute App is a great asset for public safety personnel when they find themselves unable to communicate with a proficient, non-English speaker. Continue reading