Symposium: 25th October 2015

Using Interdisciplinary Research to Inform Interpreter-Mediated Consultation Training

This symposium convened a European panel consisting of researchers and educationists who study interpreter-mediated medical consultations using methodologies of applied linguistics, gesture study, interactional linguistics and linguistic ethnography.

The use of interpreters in healthcare is associated with the quality of care and is an essential component in diversity and clinical communication training for health students as well as professional interpreters. The panel demonstrated how social science research can inform and enhance clinical training and practice. An abstract of the symposium can be found here.




The use of interpreters in healthcare is associated with the quality of care. Training for clinicians and interpreters is enhanced by interdisciplinary research. The presenters discuss several innovative approaches that informed training and clinical practice, drawing on methods of conversation analysis, gesture study, interactional linguistics and linguistic ethnography.


Individual presentations

Jennifer Gerwing et al proposed a heuristic for training to develop skills to observe interpreter’s gestures as a control in interaction. This was based on their psycholinguistic investigation of body-oriented gestures, which analysed (1) how GPs and patients integrate gesture and speech when referring to regions of the body and (2) how interpreters reformulate these gesture-speech composites.

Shuangyu Li developed a set of three-themed communication strategies for clinicians to better manage interpreter mediated GP consultations, informed by a conversation analysis of generic features of the ways doctor, patient and interpreter took turns to speak.

Antoon Cox et al developed an e-learning programme for Emergency Department (ED) clinicians, allowing busy doctors to develop awareness of language and cultural barriers and improve skills in managing interpreted consultations. This was a result of their interactional sociolinguistic research in a multilingual ED. The project won the Belgian Language Industry Award for “best language project 2014”.

Demi Krystallidou et al introduced an integrated curriculum between their medical and interpreting schools. Their interactional linguistics-informed training focuses on specific (non-) verbal interactional patterns that aim at achieving and increasing patient involvement in interpreter-mediated consultations.

In response to UK’s national drive to promote diversity training in health schools, initiated by Diversity in Medicine and Healthcare Committee, Angela Rowlands developed communication teaching for medical students. Its format provides an arena for incorporating the results of other presentations.



The complexity of interpreter-mediated consultations requires integrated approaches from all relevant disciplines, in order to capture a wide range of interactional dynamics and inform training.



Shuangyu Li, GKT School of Medical Education, King’s College London, UK

Angela Rowlands, Institute of Health Science Education, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Demi Krystallidou, Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication, Ghent University, Belgium

Jennifer Gerwing, Akershus universitetssykehus HF, Oslo, NorwayInvite researchers

Antoon Cox, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Peter Pype, Department of General practice and primary health care, Ghent University, Belgium