Should you ever think it’s okay to use a child as a medical interpreter for other family members, consider this essay on Multilingual by Onelia Navarro.
In it, Navarro recalls a pair of shocking incidents. In one, Navarro was called on to interpret for her parents that she was about to undergo cancer surgery that had a low survival rate. In another, Navarro’s mother picked her up from school to interpret a work meeting that she did not understand. Navarro found herself telling 15 Spanish-speaking workers that they were all about to be fired.
“I was usually praised for being a “mature and helpful” child,” Navarro recalls. “However, people did not realize how stressful this was for me. I was, by then, an 11-year-old kid, and I was constantly struggling due to uncertainty about my ability to deliver messages accurately in both languages. I had to grow up quickly to be able to understand adult life without getting the chance to process the difficult information I was being asked to interpret.”
Read the complete essay for the personal reflection and for a summary on when it might be permissible to use a child to interpret. The short answer to that: “Simply put, children must not be used to provide language assistance to LEP people with only one exception — a life-threatening emergency that requires language interpretation.”