In a society that is becoming ever more linguistically and culturally diverse, language can sometimes become a barrier for monolingual healthcare practitioners working with multilingual clients.

Recent surveys have shown that Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) are not always confident working with multilingual and culturally diverse clients. However, the standards of proficiency of the UK Health and Care Professions Council state that SLTs must be aware how communicating to clients may be affected by culture and they should “understand the need to use an appropriate interpreter to assist service users whose first language is not English, wherever possible” (RCSLT, 2010). Knowing how to work effectively with an interpreter should therefore be part of an SLT’s skills set.

As part of a capacity-building initiative the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism organized a one-day training event for final-year SLT students at the University of Reading. I recently attended this training to develop my skills as a practitioner in this area. Prior to this, I had no experience or knowledge of how to effectively work with an interpreter or, more generally, multilingual clients. I was however, very aware that this is an important skill to have.

The training was delivered by Dr Beverley Costa, a psychotherapist with years of experience of training and working with interpreters in healthcare settings. Throughout the day, we addressed the challenges and opportunities presented by working with an interpreter were discussed in pairs and as a group. For instance, anxieties interpreters may face when working with an SLT vs the anxieties we as SLTs may have working with them. This was a useful activity as it helped us consider the challenges we and they may come across before a session. We then discussed more practical issues of the interpretation process, such as how to set up the room, the importance of a pre- and post- briefing sessions with an interpreter and what to do if an interpreter is late or doesn’t show. The practical advice was extremely helpful as these are questions I would not have thought about when working with an interpreter, but after discussion, I can clearly see the benefits of referring back to what we learnt during the workshop.

I would urge any SLTs who may feel like I once did, that this is a gap in their skill set, to attend this training course.

The next workshop is in the 19th March. Registration is now closed.