Anyone who has spent time around children knows that they aren’t mini-adults. They haven’t developed the maturity or the coping skills to handle certain every day scenarios let alone traumatic events.


Yet children still find themselves in situations that they don’t understand. From school enrollment to medical and legal appointments, they must navigate the adult world—sometimes without parents or guardians. Not speaking the language makes this even scarier, which is why interpreters should take extra steps to assist them with communication. Here are five ways children differ from adults and how you can adapt your interpreting style to address them.


  1. Smaller vocabularies. Children, especially younger ones, have smaller vocabularies. But that doesn’t mean you should use baby talk. Start by interpreting the adult speaker directly. If the child doesn’t seem to understand what a word means, ask the speaker to define it in simple terms. As the conversation progresses, try to interpret at the same vocabulary level as the child.


  1. Shorter attention spans. Children may struggle to stay focused during an extended conversation. Use shorter, simpler sentences when possible, but be careful not to paraphrase. You may leave out important information if you do.


  1. Sensitivity to tone. Even young children are aware of the power differential between them and adults. While you may need to alter your vocabulary and sentence structure, try to avoid sounding patronizing. If the child picks up on the difference in tone, he or she may refuse to talk to you.


  1. Less emotional regulation. Children are still learning how to regulate their emotions and express themselves. Some children may cry. Some may become angry. Others still may try to recoil altogether. Understand that this may be stressful for them, and be patient. Keep your speech steady and clear.


  1. Different comfort levels with adults. While some children happily have conversations with adults, others fear strangers. Whether a parent or guardian is in the room may also affect the child’s willingness to talk. Pay attention to how the child responds to you and adjust your approach accordingly. And remember, some children have experienced trauma and it may take them longer to feel comfortable talking.


Above all, remember that the key to interpreting for children is the ability to adapt to their needs. Taking the time to understand the child’s capabilities and limitations will help you build trust and ensure that the interpreting process goes more smoothly.    


Have you ever interpreted for children? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

Interpreters are typically relegated to background characters in history, if they’re recognized at all. And unfortunately, female interpreters, like linguists from other marginalized groups, are even more likely to be overlooked. Yet they’ve always played an essential role in the conversations that shape our world. So, in honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the women who have bridged language gaps and worked to improve intercultural understandings across time and geography.


Sacagawea (United States)


A Lehmi-Shoshone woman from modern-day North Dakota, Sacagawea played a vital role in the exploration of the American West. In 1804, the 16-year-old joined the Lewis and Clark expedition and served as the group’s primary guide and interpreter. She established cultural contracts with other tribes as they traveled, and her knowledge of natural history was essential for the group’s survival. During the journey in 1805, she gave birth to her son, explorer Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. As a new mom, she became a symbol of peace to those who met her.


Elena Kidd (Russia)


Elena Kidd is best known for her role as a former conference interpreter and translator for Mikhail Gorbachev. She interpreted conferences and meetings for the former General Secretary

in the early 1990s, a volatile era in post-Soviet Russia. According to Kidd, she had no trouble understanding his Southern accent but his long, convoluted sentences made him difficult to paraphrase. Today, she serves as a senior lecturer at the University of Bath and as a senior interpreter at the Finance Academy of the RF Government. She specializes in banking, finance, securities & exchanges, insurance, accounting, and auditing.


Banafsheh Keynoush (U.K. & Iran)


Serving as a simultaneous interpreter for four Iranian presidents is a major feat for anyone. But it’s especially impressive for the self-taught interpreter, Banafsheh Keynoush. Keynoush, who grew up in West London, returned to Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War and got her first taste of international relations. She later earned her B.A. and M.A. in English and taught herself how to interpret by listening to the BBC. (There were no interpreting schools in Iran at the time.) Today, she serves as an independent consultant and has advised the United Nations, International Labor Organization, The World Bank, and many other NGOs, think tanks, and international organizations.


Are there any other female interpreters, translators, or linguists you’d like to celebrate?

Give them a shout out in the comments!


You probably already know that most spoken languages belong to a language family. But did you know that many sign languages do as well? Although linguistic research into sign languages lags behind spoken languages, at least six language families have been identified along with numerous isolates. Here’s a look at all six families and where they’re used throughout the world.




The Arab sign language family is made up of variations of sign languages that are used throughout the Middle East. Its sentence structure is similar to spoken Arabic. However, unlike spoken Arabic, there’s no distinction between a formal and colloquial sign language. Dialects include: Levantine, Iraqi, Yemini, Kuwaiti, Egyptian, and Libyan sign languages.




The term BANZSL stands for British, Australia, and New Zealand sign languages. All three variations are dialects of the same language, and trace their roots back to sign language in 19th century Britain. They use the same grammar, manual alphabet, and have similar vocabulary.

It’s also used in Northern Ireland, South Africa, The Maritimes, and Newfoundland and Labrador.




French sign languages descend from Old French Sign Language, which was developed by the deaf community in Paris. It can be traced back as far as the 17th century, but is likely older. It’s used in Western Europe, North America, Francophone Africa, and parts of Asia. American Sign Language (ASL) belongs to this family, and the French dialect is still used in Philadelphia.




The German sign language family includes German Sign Language, Polish Sign Language, and Israeli Sign Language. Although the German dialect is used in Germany and within German-speaking communities in Belgium, it’s unrelated in spoken German.




Japanese Sign Language (JSL), Korean Sign Language (KSL), and Taiwanese Sign Language (TSL) belong to the Japanese Sign Language family. JSL was standardized in 1908, and has a heavy influence on KSL and TSL due to Japan’s presence in the region. All three are mutually intelligible, and have grammatical structures and features that aren’t found in their spoken counterparts.




The Swedish Sign Language family includes the sign languages used in Sweden, Finland, and Portugal. Swedish Sign Language (SL) may have descended from British Sign Language, and later gave rise to Portuguese and Finnish sign languages. While Danish Sign Language belongs to the French family, it’s mutually intelligible with Swedish SL. However, despite being in the same family, Finnish and Swedish SL aren’t mutually intelligible.


Sign Language Isolates


In addition to the major language families, numerous sign language isolates exist. These include:


  • Chinese Sign Language
  • Hawai’i Sign Language
  • Inuit Sign Language
  • Mauritian Sign Language
  • Nicaraguan Sign Language
  • Peruvian Sign Language


Final Thoughts


As you can see sign languages are just as diverse as spoken languages. Some reach as far as four continents, while others share few similarities with national spoken languages.


By understanding their unique histories and cultures, you’ll be better prepared to serve members of the deaf community within your own country. And if you live in a region where American Sign Language (ASL) is widely used, Boostlingo can help. Our ASL 24/7 service let’s you connect with a remote interpreter whenever you need one.


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