When to use an Aboriginal interpreter

Ask open-ended questions

Get your client to speak to you in narrative (story) form by asking open-ended background questions such as:

  • 'tell me about…'
  • 'what do you think will happen if…?'

Avoid yes or no questions or questions that can be answered with one or two words.

Don't use biographical questions as a benchmark

Most Aboriginal Territorians who speak English as a second language will have had repeated experience providing biographical data to service providers - eg: where do you live, what’s your date of birth, are you employed.

Don’t rely on a person's ability to provide biographical data as the basis for deciding whether to work with an interpreter.

Just because they can adequately answer simple questions about their life does not mean they have sufficient English proficiency to describe symptoms, understand medical procedures, or discuss options for the legal case or medical treatment.

Ask your client/patient 'what language do you speak most at home' rather than 'do you speak English?'

Most people will answer 'yes' because they do speak some English.

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Last updated: 21 September 2020

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