‘I had to stifle my feelings’ – Bilingual health professionals translating for family members in a healthcare setting. A qualitative study

Dorthe Susanne Nielsen*, Leila Saud Abdulkadir, Camilla Lynnerup, Morten Sodemann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

330 Downloads (Pure)


Background: As an alternative to a professional interpreter, children or relatives often act as so-called ‘language brokers’ in the healthcare sector. Litterature have demonstrated that the cultural context is significant for the potential outcome for child language brokers. For individuals from a collectivistic family pattern, it becomes natural and is often regarded as respectful, to assist older relatives day and night. Aim: Very little is known about young people providing informal translation services in a Scandinavian context. We therefore aimed to capture the lived experiences of bilingual health professionals, students and postgraduates who have experienced interpreting for family members in a healthcare setting. By interviewing bilingual health professionals, we aimed to obtain two perspectives, the translators and the professionals, in one interview. Results: Analysing the conditions, meanings and reasoning, it became possible for us to understand the young translators’ situations and how their life conditions affected their reasons for action in certain ways and in certain conditions. The analysis revealed four main themes: (i) the importance of social relations and cultural conditions; (ii) the hidden burden of consequences for participants’ health conditions due to the focus on health-related consequences and emotionally difficult situations experienced by the participants; (iii) participants experienced limitations in language skills as a challenge; and (iv) being ‘in between’ in the encounter with the professional system. Conclusion: When family members interpret for the family, the family interpreter is at risk of being excluded by the family or being exposed to and involved in highly sensitive dilemmas that may forever impair normal family relations: health professionals should be aware of this and take professional responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)929-937
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • brokering
  • cultural competencies
  • ethics
  • family
  • inequality
  • interpretation
  • language
  • nursing
  • translation


Dive into the research topics of '‘I had to stifle my feelings’ – Bilingual health professionals translating for family members in a healthcare setting. A qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this