This is a natural question since in real life an interpreter is expected to understand as many dialects and regional variants of their language as possible so that they can communicate with almost any patient speaking their language. At the same time, experienced interpreters recognize the fact that in real life, while understanding many dialects/variants, most of the time, they interpret into a “neutral, literary, mainstream, understood-by-all” version of their non-English language with the insertion of regionalisms to match the patient’s dialect/variant. Only when an interpreter has a patient from the same country and/or locality they can interpret into their “native” variant proper. The exception, of course, are those interpreters who are truly "bi/multi-dialectal” because they have lived and practiced several dialects/variants of the “main” language.
The question arises how candidates are supposed to approximate the real life in the testing environment. Let’s take a look at the CHI™ exam’s purpose. The national certification exam is a tool to measure, among other things, a candidate’s ability:
To achieve the first goal, the content of the exam is presented as audio recordings by different voice talents with different regional/dialect accents. In other words, the candidate will hear at the exam voices of “patients” from different countries. At the same time, CCHI engaged volunteer Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from different countries and cultural groups in the development of each exam to make sure that there is no bias towards any specific dialect/variant in the content and that only widely used and commonly understood colloquialisms are included. For example, you may hear the voice (accent) of a patient from Argentina or Taiwan or Lebanon but they will not be speaking the colloquial versions of Spanish, Mandarin or Arabic from those countries specifically.
To achieve the second goal of the national certification exam, candidates are expected to interpret from English into Arabic, Mandarin or Spanish accurately and completely, preserving the register of the speaker, without omitting, adding or changing the speaker’s message. (In this context, the speaker is a doctor or nurse or an allied healthcare professional talking to a patient in English.) There can be two possible ways of meeting this expectation:
In both cases, the issue is not which dialect/variant the candidate is using, the issue is if the candidate is faithful to the original message of the speaker as our professional Code of Ethics requires.
For example, this is what a certified interpreter is expected to do. When a doctor (on the exam or in real life) uses a higher register English word (e.g. hypertension), it must be interpreted with a corresponding higher register (aka formal) word in Arabic, Mandarin or Spanish, etc. In other words, formal English medical terms need to be interpreted with, let’s say, formal Arabic medical terms, i.e. the ones used in medical textbooks in Arabic. So the interpreter, most likely, will have to use a Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) word in this instance because regional variants of Arabic won’t have a corresponding higher register equivalent.
And here is what a non-certified interpreter (or a bilingual layperson) usually does. When they hear a higher register term, for example, “You have hypertension,” they think internally, “This patient from, for example, Morocco, will not understand me if I say this formal word in MSA; in my country we usually say “You have blood pressure” in this case.” And the interpreter proceeds to interpret “hypertension” as “blood pressure.” Or, in case of more complex terms, the interpreter will start explaining the term while there exists a direct equivalent in the non-colloquial variant of their language. So the mistake such an interpreter makes is not about the dialect but about using a wrong register and/or about explaining instead of using a direct equivalent, thus, showing the lack of knowledge of formal medical terminology. In real life, if an interpreter uses the direct equivalent of “hypertension” as it exists in MSA, the patient has an opportunity to ask the provider to explain this word, which will alert the provider to the need for him/her to lower their register of speech for that patient.
At the same time, if, in the exam content, a provider uses an English word, e.g. “hotdog,” which has different equivalents in different countries, then the interpreter can use whatever colloquial word is common in their country, and it will be considered correct by the raters. Here lies a slight difference between the exam and the real life. Because in real life a certified interpreter should try to use the colloquial equivalent that is used in the patient’s country rather than the interpreter’s, or if the interpreter doesn’t know the colloquialism understood by the patient, to use a neutral register word or describe the meaning and then clarify with the patient if the patient understands.
A comment about rating of the oral exam. CCHI employs culturally diverse raters who are instructed not to penalize candidates for using any particular dialect/variant as long as the equivalency of meaning is preserved. Each candidate generates seven oral recordings during the exam: four of the consecutive part, two of the simultaneous, and one of the sight translation. Each of these seven recordings are independently scored by two (2) raters. If these two raters disagree by more than 1 point in their score, a third rater scores the recorded interpretation. The final score is generated by a proprietary formula that uses all these individual scores. This process is designed to produce as objective a score as is possible with human rating.
In conclusion, the advice to candidates is during the exam to focus on preserving the equivalency of meaning of the speaker’s message which includes accuracy, completeness and faithfulness to the register and cultural context, and not to worry about the dialect/variant of the non-English language into which they should interpret. Candidates who fail do not fail because of the dialect/variant they used but because they did not know how to produce equivalent meaning and resorted to substituting or explaining. The interpreter is the voice of the speaker, and it is our duty to keep this voice as unique and as rich as the speaker intends it.
The listing of the training opportunities on this page is sponsored by the training providers. CCHI does not accredit, preapprove or endorse beginner-level programs. The listed programs are examples of possible training opportunities that help applicants meet the 40-hour healthcare interpreter training requirement and prepare for the examination(s). Interpreters are cautioned to question the veracity of guarantees of success on examinations as a result of any training.
For the Registry of CCHI Accredited Continuing Education programs, please go to www.CEAPcchi.org.
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You may only schedule to take the CoreCHI™ examination once you have received your CoreCHI™ Notice to Schedule email. You must bring a copy of the CoreCHI™ Notice to Schedule you receive to the examination site. If you have paid your CoreCHI™ exam fee and have not received your CoreCHI™ Notice to Schedule, please log into your CCHI profile and select the "Communications" tab on the top of the screen. Your CoreCHI™ Notice to Schedule is available in the Communications tab to view and print.
The CoreCHI™ exam is offered every week of the year at test centers throughout the United States and can be schedule at a time and location that is convenient for you. Each test center determines the days and times during the week that it will administer the examination. All that you need to do to schedule your exam is call (844) 704-1487 and speak with a scheduling agent who has access to every test center's schedule. Click here to view a list of test centers offering the CoreCHI™ exam.
Make sure that during scheduling you ask for directions to the test center and to the testing room within the buliding as well as any parking instructions.
Attention Los Angeles candidates! CCHI has an additional test site in Walnut, CA (zip code 91789), which may not appear in the link above. To schedule an exam at this site, please call (844) 704-1487 and specify that you want to test at this location.
You may schedule your CHI™ examination once you receive your CHI™ Notice to Schedule. You cannot use the same notice that you received for your CoreCHI™ exam. Each examination has a separate Notice to Schedule. If you have paid your CHI™ exam fee and have not received your CHI™ Notice to Schedule, please log into your CCHI profile and select the "Communications" tab on the top of the screen. Your CHI™ Notice to Schedule is available in the Communications tab to view and print. If you contact a test center and schedule your exam before you receive your CHI™ Notice to Schedule email, you will forfeit your CHI™ exam fee and/or be required to pay a "reschedule charge". You must bring a copy of the CHI™ Notice to Schedule you receive to the test center. If you do not bring your notice, you will not be admitted to take the exam and will forfeit your exam fee.
The CHI™ exam is offered during four testing windows each year. Testing seats are first come first serve, and some test centers may fill their available testing slots quickly. If you schedule your CHI™ examination outside of testing windows, the exam will not be available when you show up for your scheduled appointment and your exam fee will be forfeited. Upcoming CHI™ tests windows:
The CHI™ performance exam requires a special set up for undisturbed interpretation, spoken aloud. CCHI makes special arrangements for private testing rooms at the following test centers throughout the United States. Click here to search for a testing center nearest to you. Keep in mind that the testing center availability may change from one testing window to another. You may ask our representative if there is a new location available in your state at the time of calling our scheduling line.
Each test center determines the days and times during the week that it will administer the examination. Testing seats are first come first serve, and some test centers may fill their available testing slots quickly.All that you need to do to schedule your exam is to call 800-947-4228 and speak with a scheduling agent who has access to every test center's schedule. Make sure that during scheduling you ask for directions to the test center and to the testing room within the buliding as well as any parking instructions.
It's time to schedule your exam!
Candidates can schedule their CoreCHI™ examination or CHI™ examination once they have received their official Notice to Schedule email. Each examination has a separate Notice to Schedule that serves as your Admission Ticket to the examination.
Please do not schedule your examination until you have received the Notice to Schedule for that exam. All that you need to do to schedule your exam - either CoreCHI™ or CHI™ - is to call (844) 704-1487 and speak with a scheduling agent who has access to every test center's schedule. For details and locations specific to a particular exam, click on the corresponding link below.