Nermin Al Sharman: My Research Story

Throughout the month of June, we’re hosting a multidisciplinary celebration of postgraduate research at Queen’s, aiming to promote inclusivity and collaboration in the work of our researchers. Researchers at all stages, from all places are invited to join us for this Celebration of Research Culture. We’re asking some of our postgraduate research students to tell us a bit about their research and how they hope it will make an impact on the world around them.

My research investigates the challenges encountered by medical interpreters in Jordan, especially those who work in the refugee context.

Medical interpreters have to deal with medical terminology, cultural barriers and exposure to patients’ traumatic experiences, which may have implications on their mental wellbeing. Moreover, my research also addresses the lack of training, mental support and NGOs language policies.

Following the Syrian crisis, thousands were forced to seek refuge in Jordan which necessitated international humanitarian medical assistance and therefore the need for interpreters to bridge language barriers and act as cultural mediators. I was doing my undergraduate studies in Modern Language – French at the time and I remember that one of my fellow students suspended her studies to work in Zaatari camp as an interpreter for one of the field hospitals. I was not fully aware of what that entailed back then, but it stayed at the back of my mind. A young student who has no background or experience in interpreting and still at the early stages of learning the French language has to provide language support and facilitate communication between refugee patients and healthcare professionals? How is that possible?

Almost six years later, I completed my master’s degree in translation and interpreting and decided to pursue a PhD in interpreting. As I mentioned earlier, my research is basically about the difficulties that interpreters face working in healthcare and refugee settings and their need for training. I am hoping to make an actual positive impact by voicing interpreters’ opinions and needs. I am also planning to build on my research and design a medical training programme or course to prepare interpreters with the skills they need and to help them cope with the psychological effects of medical interpreting, including interpreting for refugees. 

Nermin Al Sharman is a PhD candidate in Interpreting from Irbid, Jordan.

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