This post continues a series of posts that shine the spotlight on professional organizations for interpreters and translators. In our last post, we talked about the benefits of joining a professional organization and highlighted one such organization – Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS). In today’s post, we picked another West Coast organization –  The California Healthcare Interpreting Association (CHIA). 


CHIA fact file


  • Originally named California Healthcare Interpreter’s Association, CHIA was founded in 1996. The name was changed to its current name – The California Healthcare Interpreting Association. This change reflected the fact that the focus of the organization is not just in interpreters, but the interpreting itself, as well as the well-being of LEP patients. 
  • CHIA currently has around 1500 members across the whole United States. 
  • In 2002, CHIA released Ethical Principles, Protocols, and Guidance on Roles & Interventions (a.k.a the CHIA Standards), the nationally recognized California Standards for Healthcare Interpreters which are written into the state’s legislation. The standards are an invaluable tool and are being used by interpreters across the United States. 
  • CHIA members include not only interpreters and translators, but also medical providers, members of healthcare administrations, and public health and language access advocates and activists. 
  • Member benefits include discounts for CHIA regional trainings, webinars and annual conferences as well as an opportunity to vote in board elections and volunteer in CHIA committees. 


An interview with current CHIA president, Tatiana Foerster 


CHIA is famous for its annual conference that brings interpreters from across the US and even other countries. What are some memorable moments from past CHIA conferences? 


Tatiana: In my opinion, the most memorable panel/keynote was last year when we had all CHIA past and present presidents at the same table. It was interesting to see a history of the organization and changes of the organization and profession through the eyes of its leaders. The 2020 conference was attended by about 500 participants who came from 20 US states and even from other countries such as Japan! 


What are CHIA’s plans for the 2021 conference? 


Tatiana: The 2021 annual conference is going to be virtual and take place on March 5 and 6. We will try to preserve the CHIA spirit and make it not only educational but also fun! For example, conference merchandise will be shipped to your door this year –  T-shirts, mugs and more! Online registration will open on February 5, 2021. The cost will be $150 for all activities on both days. We’ll be applying for CEUs from CCHI, IMIA/NBCMI, RID and WA-DSHS. 


What are some notable facts about CHIA? 


Tatiana: I would say that the most notable fact is the creation of CHIA standards that are used not only in California but nationwide. Also, CHIA has only one employee.  All Board members are volunteers! They participate in CHIA for the love of the organization and for the love of the profession.


Historically, African American linguists have been overlooked. However, their contributions have provided significant insights into indigenous, African, European, and creole languages that are spoken throughout the world. In honor of Black History Month, we’re shining a spotlight on three famous African American linguists, and the work they’ve done to advance the field.


Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890 – 1972)


Dubbed the father of Gullah Studies, Lorenzo Dow Turner was one of the first African American linguists. He’s best known for his research on the Gullah language of the Low Country in South Carolina and Georgia. Although Gullah was classified as a dialect of English, Turner argued that it should be considered a separate language due to the influence from African languages. In 1949, he published Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect, which explores this linguistic phenomenon.


Throughout his career, Turner traveled to Louisiana, Sierra Leone, and Brazil to study Creole and Portuguese. He also served as the Head of the English Department at Howard University and Fisk University for a combined total of 30 years. While working at the latter, he developed the first African Studies curriculum in the United States.


Mark Hanna Watkins (1903 – 1976)


The first African American to earn a PhD with a dissertation in linguistics, Mark Hanna Watkins is known for his research on indigenous and African languages. In 1933, he completed a Master’s degree at the University of Chicago. His thesis focused on the relationship of seven related indigenous languages in Mexico. Three years later, he completed his PhD in Anthropology. His dissertation, A Grammar of Chichewa: A Bantu Language of British Central Africa, remains the only full-length reference on the grammar of the language.


Turner spent most of his career researching and writing about the languages and cultures of Africa, Native Americans, African Americans, and Haitians. While serving as a professor at Fisk University, he became one of the six faculty members to join the first African Studies program.


John Hamilton McWhorter (1965 – )


Better known to the public for his cultural criticism, John Hamilton McWhorter is the only living linguist on our list. An associate professor of English Literature at Columbia University, much of his academic research is on creoles and their relationships to other languages. He has a particular interest in the Surinam creole language Saramaccan.


In addition to his academic research, McWhorter has written two non-academic books on linguistics: What Language Is and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue. He also hosts a podcast on linguistics and language learning called Lexicon Valley.


Are there any other African American linguists you’d like to celebrate? Give them a shout out in the comments!

Machine translation (MT) accuracy has improved significantly in recent years. In fact, a 2019 study on patient instructions found that 92% of sentences were accurately translated into Spanish, while 81% translated into Chinese were. As translation and interpreting apps continue to refine their capabilities, they pose an important question: will they replace human medical interpreters?


The short answer is no. While MT can produce simple instructions or definitions, it still lacks the ability to determine context. Natural languages are nuanced, and cultural differences even among speakers of the same language can change the meaning of words or phrases. Yet interpreting apps still offer several benefits for patients, healthcare professionals, and the interpreters themselves. But before we dive into the benefits, let’s take a look at a few types of medical apps on the market today.


Types of Medical Interpreting Apps


Not all medical interpreting apps serve the same function. Speech-to-text or text-to-text apps can produce a basic translation of a conversation between patients and health professionals. Others are pre-programed with words and phrases to help a patient understand a specific treatment or medical procedure. Another type includes visual icons to help patients answer questions or make requests by pressing a button.


The Benefits of Medical Interpreting Apps


Each type of app works to help breakdown communication barriers between patients and medical staff. They can also:


  • Reduce the cost of medical interpretation and the wait time associated with interpreting. Healthcare professionals can collect basic information from patients before they connect with an interpreter. This also allows providers to give interpreters some background before they start a session.
  • Improve the accuracy of patient forms. Medical interpreters usually aren’t the ones filling out patient forms, which can lead to staff errors. When patients can see what was recorded with a speech-to-text app, they can immediately correct an error. This improves insurance reimbursement, billing, and healthcare management.
  • Help healthcare professionals determine if patients understand their questions. Medical apps give healthcare professionals a written record of the conversation, which helps them determine if both the patient and interpreter understood them. This opportunity to clarify any misunderstanding can improve health outcomes and reduce the need for readmission.


As you can see, instead of replacing medical interpreters, medical apps actually serve as a tool to improve accuracy and patient experiences.


Medical Interpreters and Boostlingo


Despite the advance in machine translation, medical interpreters will continue to play a vital role in patient care. Fortunately, Boostlingo’s interpreting platform makes it easy to connect with interpreters who speak over 200 languages. You can connect in minutes using our over-the-phone (OPI) or video remove (VRI) options or schedule an onsite interpreter for upcoming appointments. Best of all, it’s easy to use. All you need is a computer or tablet, an internet connection, and a web cam for video calls.


Think Boostlingo may be right for you? Contact us today to start your free trial!

Sign language has a rich history in North America. Long before the arrival of Europeans, indigenous tribes developed sign languages to communicate with deaf members. American Sign Language (ASL), on the other hand, traces its roots back to 19th century France. And like any language, ASL has evolved to reflect the cultural and regional differences of its users. Here’s a look at four ASL accents, and how they came to be.


Black American Sign Language


One of the most famous accents, Black ASL developed as a result of racial segregation in the United States. Deaf African American children, like their hearing counterparts, attended segregated schools. Over time, they developed a dialect of ASL that includes African American idioms, slang, and other cultural references.


Black ASL has larger spacing, which means some signs are produced further from the body. Users also tend to prefer signing with two hands, instead of one. However, many deaf African Americans switch between ASL and Black ASL, depending on the context of the conversation. In linguistics, this is known as code-switching.


Regional Differences in American Sign Language


Given that spoken languages have regional accents, it should come as no surprise that ASL does too. Below are just three of them:



  • The City of Brotherly Love may not have a famous spoken accent, but it certainly does in ASL. Philadelphia sign language remains closer to French Sign Language, and retains some of its signs. Linguistics believe the accent traces its roots back to the first deaf school in the city, which opened in 1820 and closed in 1984. The longevity of this institution may have helped perverse this unique accent. Unfortunately, it’s disappearing among younger ASL users.


  • The American South is known for its laid-back lifestyle and slower speech patterns. Similarly, Southern ASL users draw out signs to mimic the famous Southern drawl. They also touch their lower face and chest more when they communicate.


ASL Interpreters and Boostlingo


Regardless of their accent, ASL users often need the help of an interpreter when they interact with the hearing world. And that’s where Boostlingo comes in. Our video remote interpreting (VRI) platform makes it easy for professionals in healthcare, legal, and corporate settings to connect with an ASL interpreter. All you need is a high-speed internet connection, a computer or tablet, and a webcam.


Want to see if Boostlingo is right for you? Start your free trial today!

Depending on where they work, medical interpreters can expect to find themselves interpreting in a wide variety of settings – from cardiology and urology to childbirth and eye surgery. However, there is one field that stands out for its unique interpreting challenges – mental health. Encounters related to mental health may take place across many settings and modalities, including inpatient psychiatric wards, over-the-phone counseling sessions, in-office neuropsychological assessment, and group therapy sessions. Topics covered can also vary widely and may include discussions related to addiction, eating disorders, serious psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or severe depression, bereavement and anxiety. In addition, interpreters may find themselves challenged as they try to faithfully render a message that is extremely long, rambling or incoherent, where clarification or repetition may be impossible due to a patient’s condition or undesirable for fear of interrupting the patient’s painful recollection of a traumatic event. 

In order to be better prepared for interpreting in mental health settings, interpreters should consider educating themselves on all things mental health. To help with this, we put together a list of helpful resources to choose from. 


Educational Resources


Mental Health Training Series from Americans Against Language Barriers 

Kelly Henriquez, a certified Spanish medical interpreter, is working on a series of lectures which are free to watch – you only pay if you’d like to receive CEUs. Currently 2 out of 13 lectures are available to watch. 


10 or 40-Hour Mental Health Interpreting CEU Course from MITIO 

This online course has two duration options – 10 or 40 hours. It includes self-paced content as well as interactive practice and discussion opportunities. 


Psychiatric Interviews: The Impact of Language from ALTA 

This is a one-hour on demand class that offers participants an opportunity to learn about how to effectively interpret the questions and answers in mental health appointments.


Interpreting in Mental Health, a 25-hour Online Course for Advanced Skills from Cross Cultural Communication Systems. 

This course offers insights into common mental health disorders and interpreting challenges and includes numerous interactive practice activities. 


Introduction to interpreting for mental health from HCIN Learn 

A 1.5-long recording of a 2019 webinar presented by mental health professionals from Hennepin Healthcare which includes an overview of the mental health field and provides recommendations for best interpreting practices. 




What Is Mental Health Interpreting? Subject to Interpretation podcast 

This podcast episode includes an interview with Arianna Aguilar, who has extensive experience in and a passion for interpreting in mental health. 


Latinx Therapy 

This weekly podcast discusses mental health topics related to Latinas, Latinos, and Latinx individuals.


Stories of Stigma: South Asian Mental Health

This podcast series features guests who share their experience or expertise on unique topics related to South Asian Mental Health. 




Other Tongues: Psychological therapies in a multilingual world

The author Beverly Costa argues that a profession that practises ‘talking therapy’ should consider more carefully the challenges and opportunities working multilingually presents. She also explores the important role of interpreters in giving a voice to clients who do not speak English as a first language, and offers guidance on good practice to counsellors working with them.


The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

This book consists of short stories detailing personal encounters between a British psychoanalyst and his patients. 


Whether you decide to attend a class, listen to a podcast, read a book or all of the above, we hope that the suggested resources can help interpreters prepare to interpret in mental health settings!