Risks involved when using untrained interpreters in a health consultation


About this resource

This is a video showing what can go wrong when conducting a health consultation involving a child as an interpreter. We should never use a child as an interpreter. 

Additionally, there are potential risks when using an untrained interpreter (such as family members, friends, etc) in a health consultation. From a clinical safety perspective, for example, the untrained interpreter might:

  • omit important information because they cannot keep up or may not know the appropriate equivalent in the patient’s language. 
  • change the word order of the original statement, thus, changing its original meaning. 
  • feel the need to add words, phrases or sentences in order to explain the patient’s point. 
  • give their opinion, answer for the patient or confuse words that sound almost the same.


eCALD Services, Waitemata DIstrict Health Board


September 2020

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Produced by eCALD Services, Waitemata District Health Board.

© Waitemata District Health Board [2010-2020].