Booklet portrays kids who serve as medical interpreters for parents


Non-Japanese children who served as translators for parents not so proficient in Japanese when it came time to communicating with doctors are the topic of a booklet compiled by Medint, a Kobe-based association and research group that provides medical interpretation services.

With a title that translates roughly as “The Children Who Bear the Role of Interpreters,” the booklet includes the experiences of children who supported their parents during their medical checkups.

The booklet was compiled based on a symposium held by Medint in December.

Among the accounts included in the booklet was that of a Vietnamese woman who came to Japan when she was 11. The woman, whose father died of an illness when she was in high school, was the one tasked with explaining his disease to her family just before he died.

“I felt like the god of death,” the woman recalled in the book.

Another story recounted the shock of a child who had to break the bad news to the family that a doctor said the father of the household had cancer.

Some children, feeling they have helped their parents, have aspired to become professional interpreters, said Noriko Muramatsu, the association’s representative.

But she added that “not only it is a huge emotional burden for the children, but since it requires medical expertise, there is always a risk of misinterpretation.”

In addition, medical interpreters are not ensured sufficient financial compensation for their services.

Because there is no system to ensure financial compensation for medical interpretations, few people aim for the job. At present, various local citizens’ groups offer medical interpretation services on a voluntary basis.

The A4-size, 40-page booklet is available for ¥500. Requests can be made via email to .

Coronavirus banner