U.S. gymnast Suni Lee made headlines when she won gold in the women’s individual all-around event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Yet her win did much more than demonstrate her athletic prowess—it shined the spotlight on the most marginalized Asian community in the United States: Hmong Americans. As the first Hmong American Olympian, she represents a little-known, often underserved community that has made significant contributions to the country.


Who are the Hmong people?


The Hmong people are an ethnic group that traces their roots to southern China. Today, the majority of them live in southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. Other countries with significant Hmong populations include: the United States, Australia, France, and Canada.


Much of their migration throughout Asia and the West has been motivated by persecution, genocide, and war. As a result, many people of Hmong descent speak the language of their adopted homeland as well as or instead of Hmong, their heritage language. In addition to Hmong, many people speak Chinese, Thai, Laotian, French, English, or Burmese.


A Brief History of Hmong Communities in America


As of 2019, approximately 327,000 people of Hmong ancestry live in the United States. However, despite their small numbers, they’ve made an outsized impact on the country’s history.


In the early 1960s, the CIA Special Activities Division recruited, trained and led Hmong soldiers in Laos against the invading North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. This “Secret Army” was organized into several mobile regiments and divisions, including various Special Guerilla Units.


After the Vietnam War ended, thousands of Hmong escaped to Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps. About 90% of them eventually resettled to the U.S. The rest resettled in Canada, France, the Netherlands, and Australia.


U.S. Metropolitan Areas with the Largest Hmong Populations


Like Suni Lee, the majority of Hmong Americans live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota metropolitan area. However, there are several other large Hmong communities throughout the U.S. Below is a list of the ten largest:


  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN: 81,000 Hmong residents
  • Fresno, CA: 35,000
  • Sacramento, CA: 27,000
  • Milwaukee, WI: 11,000
  • Hickory, NC: 8,000
  • Stockton, CA: 7,000
  • Detroit, MI: 7,000
  • Merced, CA: 6,000
  • Wausau, WI: 6,000
  • Sheboygan, WI: 5,000


Compared to other Asian American groups, Hmong are typically poorer and less likely to be proficient in English. Roughly 17% of Hmong Americans live in poverty compared to 10% of all Asians and 13% of Americans overall. At the same time, 68% of Hmong Americans report that they’re proficient in English, compared to 72% of Asian Americans overall.


Language Services for Hmong Communities


Given the large minority of Hmong Americans who aren’t proficient in English, language barriers pose a major challenge for these communities. Fortunately, remote interpreting options makes it easier than ever to connect with a Hmong interpreter who can assist with everything from healthcare to legal and social services.


With the Boostlingo interpretation platform, you can connect with an interpreter in minutes either over-the-phone (OPI) or video remote (VRI). All you need is a high-speed internet connection and a computer or tablet with a webcam for video calls. Plus, you’ll gain access to our Boostlingo Professional Interpreting Network (BPIN), which supports less commonly spoken languages, including Hmong, Laotian, Burmese, and Thai.


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

Thanks to advances in video technology, American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation services are more accessible than ever. Today, deaf individuals and the organizations that serve them can connect with an interpreter remotely instead of working with someone onsite. This not only makes it easier for ASL users to communicate—no matter where they are—but also reduces wait times and interpreting costs. And although connecting with a remote ASL interpreter has never been easier, it’s important to understand the difference between the two services available: VRS and VRI.


What Is VRS?


Video Relay Service (VRS) allows someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with a hearing person via telephone. The VRS caller uses a television or computer with a camera and an internet connection to contact an interpreter. They communicate in ASL through a video link. The interpreter then places a telephone call to the person the ASL user wishes to call. The interpreter relays the conversation in ASL with the VRS user and by voice with the hearing party. When a hearing person calls a deaf person, the call is also routed via VRS.


This service is available 24/7, and is free for the ASL user and the hearing person on the call. It’s paid for by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).


What Is VRI?


Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) allows someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to communicate using video conferencing technology. The ASL user can make calls from a remote location or access an interpreter remotely while they’re onsite. For example, a deaf person can have a telemedicine appointment with a doctor using VRI. Or they can use VRI onsite at a medical facility when no ASL interpreters are available.


VRI calls can be made on-demand or scheduled in advance. Some language service providers offer 24/7 service. Like onsite interpreting, interpreters charge per minute, and the organizations that hire them pay the costs.


Advantages of VRI


Although both services fulfill communication-related mandates under the ADA, VRI does have a couple of advantages over VRS.


As we noted above, you can use VRI whether the deaf and hearing individuals are in the same room or all three parties are in separate locations. VRS, by FCC regulation, can’t provide free interpreting services when the two parties wishing to communicate are in the same room.


The other advantage is that VRI allows all three parties to see each other. This is important because ASL includes facial expressions and body language that can change the meaning of what someone is saying. VRI better replicates the onsite interpreting experience, which reduces the possibility of miscommunication.


VRI and Boostlingo  


With the Boostlingo platform, you can connect with a remote ASL interpreter on-demand. Our ASL/24 Service makes it easy to assist deaf and hard of hearing individuals in healthcare, legal, and numerous other settings, even after hours. All you need is a high-speed internet connection and a computer or web cam to get started.


Think Boostlingo may be right for you? Start your free trial today!

News of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has shaken the world. As thousands of Afghans flee the capital city of Kabul, thousands of others remain in danger. Those who supported the U.S. military and NATO troops—including interpreters—are at an even higher risk of being arrested or killed.

On behalf of the Boostlingo team, we’d like to extend our support to Afghan interpreters, their families, and other refugees who are risking their lives. As part of our commitment to the interpreting community, we’ve compiled information on how interpreters can apply for a U.S. visa and how our readers can help them.

Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan Interpreters

Since 2008, roughly 70,000 Afghan interpreters and their families have arrived in the U.S. on a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). However, the over 20,000 interpreters who remain in the country are targets for the Taliban. Interpreters who have attempted to flee in recent weeks have been shot or beheaded due to their support for the U.S. and NATO troops. And those who have applied for an SIV face a long, difficult journey ahead.

The SIV program, which has helped tens of thousands, includes a complex 14-step application process. It’s also severely backlogged—with an estimated three-and-a-half-year waiting period before approval. This leaves interpreters and other applicants in a dangerous stage of limbo.

How You Can Help

While the situation may feel hopeless, there are steps you can take to help. Below is a list of resources to assist Afghan interpreters, their families, and other refugees.


No One Left Behind seeks to revamp the State Department’s SIV application process and ease the transition for refugees who resettle in the U.S. Right now, they’re helping Afghans in the process of applying for an SIV, if they have a case number. They accept donations, and $0.76 of every dollar goes to SIV families.

Keep Our Promise offers resettlement assistance to “endangered wartime allies who served U.S. interests in conflict and war zones.” They also provide information on how Afghans living in the U.S. can file for “Humanitarian Parole” for family members who are still in Afghanistan. They accept donations from individuals and groups.

Evacuate Our Allies is a coalition of nonprofits that are working together to evacuate and resettle Afghan allies who are in the SIV process and other vulnerable Afghans. They are having issues housing Afghan refugees who have made it to the U.S. If you’d like to volunteer in any way, including housing a family, fill out this form or send an email to [email protected].

U.S. Representatives and Resources

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) has created a form where you can request information on a refugee or provide information on how best to assist them.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) also has a form you can fill out to help the State Department connect with individuals on the ground who require assistance.

U.S. Department of the State

If you know Afghans who need to be evacuated, email [email protected] Include a copy of the passport page with a photo and any other forms of identification, a brief explanation of why they’re at risk, your email, and the emails and mobile phone numbers for the Afghans in Kabul who need to get out.

Whether it’s donating money, contacting your representative, volunteering, or simply sharing this information with your network, we encourage you to help however you can!

This picture taken on August 14, 2021 shows a Qatar Airways aircraft taking-off from the airport in Kabul. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

If you know Afghans who need to be evacuated, send an email to [email protected] that includes a copy of the passport page with photo image of the Afghans along with any other forms of identification; such as a Taskera (Afghan identity card); a brief explanation of why these people are at risk; and your email along with the emails and mobile phone numbers for the Afghans in Kabul who need to get out.

The situation is incredibly fluid right now, and because of that, we encourage you to include any other legitimate, proven organizations in the comments which may be of help. We will keep this article updated with information as the humanitarian crisis unfolds.


Did you know? One in 10 U.S. residents of childbearing age has limited English proficiency (LEP). That means millions of parents face language barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare for their children. Fortunately, video remote interpreting (VRI) can help improve patient outcomes and satisfaction for LEP families. 


In this article, we explore the benefits of VRI in children’s healthcare and see how it compares to other methods of interpretation. 


Los Angeles Children’s Hospital: A Study in VRI


From 2012 to 2017, researchers conducted a study to evaluate the implementation of VRI at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). The healthcare system, which serves patients throughout Southern California, already offered in-person and over-the-phone (OPI) interpretation services. 


Researchers rolled out 165 VRI carts and iPads in clinics, inpatient wards, and the emergency department. Staff in each department received support through six weeks of training and problem-solving issues. Additional rollouts occurred in groups every two to four months.  


Despite some initial challenges, the program was an overwhelming success. Over 50,600 VRI appointments occurred for a total of 556,938 interpretation minutes. Meanwhile, the use of OPI decreased by 37.5%, and the mean wait time for an interpreter fell from 60 minutes to 5 minutes. Rapid VRI adoption also occurred in clinics that lacked in-person interpreters. 


Increasing Access to Children’s Healthcare 


Initially, CHLA Pulmonary and Orthopedic Clinics used VRI the most per minute. As VRI supplemented in-person interpreting, the annual census for the Pulmonary Clinic increased by 1,000 patients. The use of language services rose from 4 in-person meetings per month to 129 per month, 96.9% of which were VRI. 


Additionally, VRI usage increased: 


  • 755.9% in the emergency department
  • 583.6% in the endocrinology clinic. 


It also increased substantially in outpatient settings through the use of iPads. 


VRI vs. Other Interpretation Methods


During interviews, clinical teams reported that VRI offered a more engaging, interactive, and readily available alternative to in-person and OPI for far more languages than staff interpreters. It also reduced wait times, appointment times, and improved patient satisfaction. However, staff still preferred in-person interpreters for more complex appointments. 


Yet VRI also offers benefits for in-person interpreters. Researchers found that VRI freed up time for in-person interpreters to attend professional conferences and undergo additional training. 


Overall, VRI proved to be beneficial for patients, clinical staff, and in-person interpreters. 


VRI at Boostlingo


While VRI doesn’t replace the need for in-person and over-the-phone interpreting, it does serve as a great alternative in many medical scenarios. But to fully enjoy the benefits, you need a platform that makes it easy to connect. Enter BoostCare Telehealth, the telehealth system that leverages the world’s number one interpretation platform. 


With BoostCare, you can connect with patients quickly and effectively—as well as suppliers and other support services. Plus, you’ll gain access to our Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network (BPIN) of interpreters who speak over 200 languages. 


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