Indigenous Medical Interpreters

With 41 million native Spanish speakers in the United States, it should come as no surprise that Spanish-speaking medical interpreters are always in demand. However, a growing number of Latinos, primarily from Southern Mexico and Guatemala, have different linguistic needs. That’s because people who belong to indigenous groups may speak Spanish as a second language—or not at all. And this language barrier poses a threat to COVID-19 vaccination efforts within Latino communities.

 

The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinos

 

Latinos have been hit hard by COVID-19. Despite making up only 18% of the population, they make up 26% of the deaths. They’re also hospitalized at four times the rate of White Americans. Why? Because several factors such as a higher percent of essential workers, multi-generational households, and pre-existing conditions have created the perfect conditions for it to spread.

 

Yet there’s evidence that Latinos who belong to indigenous groups may be even more likely to contract the disease. In 2020, UCSF conducted an antibody study in a predominately Latino neighborhood in Oakland, California. While 9.8% of the overall population had antibodies, 28.6% of Mayan-speaking Latinos had them. That means vaccine outreach in communities with indigenous speakers must include support for those languages to be successful.

 

La Clínica de La Raza: A Vaccination Success Story

 

As a vaccination clinic headquartered in Oakland, California has shown, access to interpreters who speak indigenous languages make all the difference. La Clínica de La Raza offers assistance in Mayan languages such as Mam, K’iche, and Q’eqchi at their 32 locations. Since they opened on March 4th, they’ve administered 2,000 vaccines per week.

 

The initiative came about in response to the rising number of Mayan residents. (They’re one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in Oakland). Onsite interpreters arrive on Thursdays to meet the community’s linguistic needs.

 

Now, given that indigenous speaking medical interpreters are in short supply, you may be wondering how other clinics can provide the same service. Here’s where the Boostlingo interpreting platform comes in.

 

How Boostlingo Can Help

 

With Boostlingo, you can quickly connect with a medical interpreter either over-the-phone (OPI) or via video remote, no matter where you’re located. Plus, we provide interpreting support for indigenous languages such as Mixteco Bajo, Mixteco Alto, and Quechua through our Boostlingo Professional Interpreting Network (BPIN).

 

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

Interpreting Children

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!

interpreting business

As an independent interpreter, you’re also a small business owner. That means building a client base is of the utmost importance. Yet many interpreters miss out on a proven way to get more clients: reaching out directly. While language service providers, interpreting portals, and associations are all excellent ways to find opportunities, you may face stiff competition. By reaching out directly, in addition to using those methods, you’ll cast a wider net. Here’s how to do it:

 

  1. Identify a target group of customers in a target region.

 

Let’s say you’re a medical interpreter who works in the Los Angeles area. Start by making a list of organizations that may be a good fit. These could include:

 

  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Private practices
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Non-profit healthcare organizations

 

  1. Create a spreadsheet of potential clients and their contact information.

 

Next, conduct an internet search and review the organizations’ websites. If they look like a good fit, check for a point-of-contact. Depending on your industry, titles may include:

 

  • Vendor manager
  • Assistant manager/Executive assistant
  • Office manager
  • Department manager

 

If no employees are listed, check out LinkedIn. Free add-on tools such as GetProspect can help you retrieve someone’s email through the platform. Or you can use a similar free email add-on such as Clearbit. If you still can’t find someone’s email, use the Contact Us address or the online form.

 

  1. Write a short, personalized email.

 

Start with a clear subject line, give a quick introduction, explain why you’re contacting them, and highlight what sets you apart. Here’s an example:

 

Subject Line: Medical Interpreter – Spanish/English – Experience in Pediatrics

 

My name is Jane Smith, and I’m a certified Spanish-English medical interpreter who specializes in pediatrics. Throughout my 10-year career, I’ve helped numerous patients and their parents in hospital and clinical settings.

 

I recently read a story about how ABC Children’s Hospital is facing an interpreter shortage, so I decided to reach out to offer my help. In addition to onsite interpreting, I accept video remote and over-the-phone assignments, including emergency calls.

 

I have attached my proposal for your consideration. Do you have a few minutes next week to discuss your interpreting needs?

 

Thanks,

Jane Smith, Certified Medical Interpreter

(555) 555-5555

[email protected]

 

  1. Attach Your Proposal and Send It Off.

 

Your proposal can include your CV, portfolio, diplomas or certificates, and any references or recommendations. If you have a website with this information, you can include the link instead.

 

After you send the email, be sure to add the date to your spreadsheet. This will help you keep track of the organizations you’ve contacted and help you remember when to follow up.

 

  1. Follow Up.

 

Direct clients are busy, and hiring an interpreter may not always be a priority. Given that, following up with a gentle reminder is a great way to stay top of mind. Trying following up every few months or when you have something to share. It can be as simple as letting them know that you completed a new certification or training or that you’re extending your hours during a holiday weekend.

 

  1. Manage Your Business with an Interpretation Platform.

 

As your business grows, staying organized will be more important than ever. Fortunately, Boostlingo’s interpretation platform makes it easy. You can manage your onsite schedule, accept on-demand remote requests, and track your earnings all in one place.

 

Want to try Boostlingo for yourself? Contact us today for your free trial!

 

 

Female Interpreters

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!

 

Sign Language

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.

 

Arab

 

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.

 

BANZSL

 

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

 

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.

 

German

 

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

 

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.

 

Swedish

 

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!