Interpreting covid

I’m a medical interpreter working primarily onsite, and as an independent contractor, I work with several local agencies. And just like with virtually all other jobs, mine has also been affected by COVID-19. 

My schedule has always been unpredictable, and along with last-minute requests, cancellations and patient no-shows were nothing unusual. However, starting in mid-March, just as the first stay-at-home order was issued in my state, there was nothing but cancellations and no shows. Then the appointments stopped coming.

Although one agency was still sending me requests, they were mostly at the local hospital where all the COVID-19 patients were being taken at the time. Every time I received a request, part of me wanted to take that job – after all, I still needed to make a living and this might be the only job I’d get that day. I also worried that, if nobody was going out there to interpret, patients would be left without adequate language access. On the other hand, I was wondering whether that 1-hour fee was worth the risk I was taking coming into the hospital when much was still unknown about the virus and universal mask wearing wasn’t yet adopted. 

This dilemma became even more pressing the following week. An agency called me, asking if I could take a last-minute appointment for an MRI scan at a local hospital. As I arrived at the hospital, I put on a cloth mask a friend had made for me and headed for my destination – which to my utter shock turned out to be the COVID-19 isolation unit. The nursing staff had to wear hazmat-style suits and helmets with air pumps to enter the patients’ room – and here I was in a hand-made flowery cloth mask. In the end, even though a nurse found a face shield and a surgical mask for me, I didn’t need them as the procedure was cancelled. This assignment brought up so many questions: How do I stay safe when I’m working? As a freelance interpreter, how do I make sure I have access to PPE such as masks? Is it irresponsible for me to keep taking onsite appointments and risk bringing the virus back to my family? What will happen if I get sick? And if neither I nor my fellow interpreters take that appointment, will the patient still receive interpreting services? 

Ultimately, I decided that as long as I was getting requests for my services, I would go out and interpret. Over April, May and June, as elective medical services were put on hold, and many local hospitals were switching to telephonic or remote interpreting, I was getting jobs mostly in cancer care.

As such appointments were taking place in outpatient settings and clinics were introducing universal mask wearing policies and providing masks to interpreters and visitors, I felt reasonably safe.

However, the new reality introduced new challenges: How do you socially distance yourself in a small exam room? How do you make yourself heard through a mask? What is a safe way to, for example, take a drink of water while out on assignments? There are no ready-made solutions, but luckily, interpreters are nothing if not resourceful and I have every confidence that, whatever life throws at us, we will find a way to keep interpreting! 

The demand for interpreters in the United States is projected to rise by 19% through 2028. That means now is the perfect time to either start your career or sharpen your skills. And one of the best ways to skill up is to specialize in one or more fields. However, fields such a medical and legal interpreting have a range of requirements you may need to meet.


Let’s take deeper dive into legal interpreting to cover the education, training, and credentials you’ll need to succeed in the field.


Education and Training for Legal Interpreters


Courts and other employers often require legal interpreters to hold a bachelor’s degree. Some legal interpreters have a degree in foreign languages, translation studies, or legal studies, but you can enter the field even if you studied another subject.


Many colleges and universities throughout the United States offer interpreting certificates, which require a set number of training hours to complete. (These programs are different from state certifications).


You can also enroll in training programs and workshops offered by state courts, local and national interpreting organizations.


If you want to become a court interpreter, you’ll need to train to perform the three mayor types of court interpreting: sight translation, consecutive interpreting, and simultaneous interpreting.


Court Interpreter Credentialing


There are two types of court interpreting certifications: state and federal. Here’s a quick overview of the requirements for each.


State Court Interpreter Certification


Although the requirements vary from state-to-state, you’ll need to pass a written and oral exam in English and a foreign language. State courts offer these exams. Many states also recognize certification through the Consortium for Language Access in Courts as well as the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.


However, certification exams aren’t available for every language. If your state doesn’t offer a certification for your language, you may qualify to become a registered court interpreter.


Federal Court Interpreter Certification


Becoming a federal court interpreter is a challenging, yet rewarding process that can open the door to new opportunities. But here’s the catch—certification is only available for Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Navajo. If you speak one of these languages, you’ll need to take a written exam and an oral exam separately.


If you don’t speak one of these languages, you can become a professionally qualified interpreter. To do so, you’ll need to:



Preparing for the Future


Once you’re ready to take the state or federal interpreting certification exam, there are plenty of resources to help you prepare. The National Center for State Courts’ self-assessment and study tools are a great starting point.


And if you’re already a working legal interpreter, check out Boostlingo’s interpretation platform. You can manage your onsite schedule, take on-demand phone requests, and more.

COVID-19 hasn’t stopped international business meetings, but it has pushed them into cyberspace. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Skype are booming in popularity. Yet they’re not the best choice when it comes to corporate interpreting.


From privacy issues to limited access to data, these platforms weren’t built with the needs of global companies in mind. Fortunately, a secure platform that offers more flexibility does exist. But first, let’s dive into the major risks of using the wrong one.


Mind the Security Gap


A warning phrase in the London subway, mind the gap is worth heading. That’s especially true when you’re discussing proprietary information or business negotiations with the help of a corporate interpreter. You’ve now revealed your secrets to hackers in two languages!


Not only that, platforms like Zoom and Skype may be listening in or selling your data themselves. Sure, these companies have publicly addressed these issues, but do you want to take that chance?


Meeting International Privacy Standards


When it comes to privacy and security, different countries have different standards. Members of the European Union, for example, protect privacy and personal data using the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—both inside and outside the EU. Organizations that don’t comply may face serious penalties.


The GDRP has also become a model for countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Japan, and Kenya. Even the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has several similarities.


So, what does this mean for international business meetings and corporate interpreting? You need a platform that puts privacy and security at the forefront of the user experience.


BoostLink to the Rescue


In May 2020, Boostlingo launched BoostLink™, a new video conferencing feature to meet your remote interpreting needs. BoostLink™ lets multiple participants in different locations communicate using a highly qualified corporate interpreter.


The platform’s features include:


  • The ability to access a remote interpreter on-demand or schedule one for an upcoming meeting.
  • Brand-able waiting rooms. Invited users can wait until you’re ready to start or bring them into the chat.
  • Full room control. You can mute or remove users at any time.
  • Privacy filters. The knock to join filter let’s you know when someone has logged in.
  • Fully configurable. You decide who has which permissions for a call.
  • EU GDRP Compliance. You never have to worry about a damaging data or privacy breach.
  • Fully reportable –call details are immediately exportable and reportable for registered users.
  • Mobile support for iOS and Android. Users can join the meeting on their phones, making it easy to use no matter where they are.


As you can see, BoostLink™ provides more security and privacy features than non-interpreting centric platforms. Plus, you get access to all the backend data support that Boostlingo is known for.


Ready to make the switch? Contact Boostlingo today!

ear health

Too many people don’t pay enough attention to their ear health until it is too late. For interpreters, their ability to listen is the foundation of their job, and anything that impedes this could have huge ramifications for their chosen career. With many interpreters today working across a screen or using a headset to communicate, this puts their hearing at an increased risk of various conditions. In fact, one of the more common and serious conditions is acoustic shock syndrome, with recent reports showing that it is having an increasing impact on interpreters in political arenas.

What is acoustic shock syndrome?

To the uninitiated, it’s a condition that can arise after being exposed to loud sounds for extended periods of time. People describe it as feeling as though they have been electrocuted in the ear. If symptoms persist, it can result in far graver issues, including loss of hearing and even emotional reactions like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

What are the symptoms of acoustic shock syndrome?

Most of the symptoms associated with acoustic shock syndrome occur due to the strong muscle contraction in the middle ear after exposure to what is perceived as a traumatic sound. People who experience it report symptoms like headaches, tinnitus, ear pain, nausea, jaw and neck pain, fluttering noises in the ear, poor balance, hypersensitivity, and fatigue.

Who is susceptible to incurring acoustic shock syndrome?

The most vulnerable to acoustic trauma are usually those who are repeatedly exposed to noise levels over 85 decibels. This includes people who work with loud industrial equipment, those who frequently attend concerts and festivals, those who frequent and work at gun ranges, and professionals who have to wear headsets for extended periods, like interpreters and call center representatives.

Who to see for acoustic shock syndrome?

If you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms it is vital that you see a specialist as soon as possible. Today many medical professionals now study these types of conditions at degree level, and often as a specialist subject. Those who take a course in communication sciences and disorders, whether as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, will be trained in different areas of audiology. Indeed, these audiologist graduates are needed today more than ever, as an estimated 40 million Americans struggle with speech, language, and/or hearing disorders. Not only can they help with treating the condition if you have it, but they can also help in guiding you on how to communicate to those who may also have this disorder. Something an interpreter could easily encounter.

How can one avoid acoustic shock syndrome?

It’s no secret that hearing loss cannot be reversed. The best thing you can do now is to protect your ears from loud noises and avoid experiences where you’ll be exposed to higher decibels. You may also want to look into using headsets that are specially designed to protect hearing. There are a plethora of high-quality headsets on the market with built-in amplifiers that provide some degree of protection from excessive noise. They are engineered to lower the sound automatically when high pitched tones are detected.

For more information on how those with limited English-speaking skills can have access to healthcare, our post on telehealth will help them and their interpreters ensure they get the best treatment they need.

Written exclusively for

by Cassandra O’Grady


In response to COVID-19, the U.S. government has expanded access to telehealth to include more people than ever. Unfortunately, one group is often left out of the conversation on how to use it: limited English proficient populations (LEPs).


Even when limited-English speaking patients have access to the internet, most video conferencing platforms weren’t built with their needs in mind. And this disconnect directly impacts their ability to receive healthcare. For example, a University of California primary care clinic saw the number of non-English speaking patients drop by 50% once they switched to telehealth.


So, how can limited-English speakers access the telehealth services they need? Through a platform that enables remote interpreting, of course!


Remote Interpreting and Telehealth 


There are two types of remote interpreting: video remote interpreting (VRI) and over-the-phone interpreting (OPI). Video remote interpreting often works best for several reasons, including:


  • Healthcare professionals can see patients and gather more information about their physical health.
  • Interpreters can evaluate facial expressions and body language to help them clarify what a patient is trying to say.
  • Deaf patients who communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) can use it to access telehealth services.
  • VRI can help health care professionals build trust with patients because they’re speaking “face-to-face”.


Yet OPI still has its place. Patients who either don’t have internet or live in an area without high speed internet won’t be able to use VRI. Other patients may not be comfortable on a video call and would prefer to use audio-only.


Ideally, the telehealth platform you choose should include both options to ensure all patients can use it. Keep in mind that some patients may not be comfortable with technology and are likely new to using telehealth. That means any platform you choose should be as user-friendly as possible.


A Simple, Secure Solution


With Boostlingo, patients can seamlessly connect with a remote interpreter via video call or over the phone. They get on-demand access to interpreters who know over 300 languages—including American Sign Language. And they don’t need to be tech-savvy, either. There’s no need to install software. They just join a call via a link, SMS, or email.


But our platform is not only easy-to-use, it’s one of the most secure options available. Unlike video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Skype, Boostlingo is HIPAA-compliant and provides the data security and privacy features that keep patient information secure.


Making the Switch


Now that you know a little more about Boostlingo, why not give it a try? Contact us today to schedule your free demo!


Interpreting for physical therapy

Some of the more common appointments healthcare interpreters can encounter are physical therapy (PT) and, to a lesser extent, occupational therapy (OT). These two kinds of therapies often go hand in hand (pun intended!) and can take place in pediatric, adult, and geriatric medicine, on an inpatient and outpatient basis. Both of these therapies might be helpful for a wide range of conditions as well as for patients recovering from a surgery, trauma, or illness. 


Considering the variety of settings and conditions associated with physical and occupational therapy, interpreters assisting during such appointments can expect to encounter, among other things, terminology related to the musculoskeletal system, childhood development and learning, descriptions of pain, commands, exercise equipment, and therapeutic tools and devices.


To help interpreters prepare for interpreting during physical and occupational therapy appointments, Boostlingo has put together some resources: from background knowledge to glossaries and videos, so read on to learn more! 


  • Physical and occupational therapies are sometimes confused because of a certain overlap between the two and because these types of services might not be as common in other countries. So, start by reading this helpful article explaining the similarities and differences between physical and occupational therapy, as well as examples of situations in which both of these therapies might be used. 
  • Get started on your glossary with these handy mini-glossaries for PT and OT
  • Next, watch this Ted Talk which describes how occupational therapy can be used to help recover from a traumatic brain injury using a real-life story of a patient’s recovery. This story is both inspiring and informative, and you can turn on subtitles to help you with translating terminology used in the video – and to make it easier to add it to your glossary! 
  • Read this blog post by Liz Essary, a Spanish interpreter, with hints and tips on preparing for and interpreting during physical therapy sessions. 
  • Watch these video demos of physical and occupational therapy sessions, As you are watching, note down the words and phrases you think might pose a challenge for interpreting. You can also use these videos to practice your consecutive and simultaneous interpreting skills. 




Professional medical interpreters are expected to possess a breadth of healthcare background knowledge and be proficient in medical terminology. In addition, interpretes engage in continuous professional development to make sure they are staying up-to-date on the latest developments in their field. Preparation for interpreting in common areas of healthcare is part of each interpreter’s continuous professional development, and after reading this article, you are that much more prepared to interpret during occupational and physical therapy sessions! 

Remote Interpreting

There’s no denying that COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work. The real question is: will these changes last? Due to the pandemic, remote interpreting has become the norm in healthcare, business, and legal settings. And given the convenience and lower costs compared to in-person interpreting, this trend is likely to continue. That means now is the time to shift to remote interpreting, if you haven’t already.


Trends in Remote Interpreting


Before we dive into how to improve your skills, let’s take a look at a few key industry trends:



As you can see, more and more people are turning to remote interpreting including those in fields that are slow to innovate (e.g. law).


How to Become a Better Remote Interpreter


Yet even if you’re a seasoned in-person interpreter, remote interpreting still poses some unique communication challenges. A few of these include:


  • Difficulty forming a rapport between participants in a virtual setting.
  • Uncertainty around being understood. People may repeat themselves, which can make a remote interpreting session take longer.
  • Trouble with technology. Difficulty with audio, video, and internet connections can occur.
  • Distractions during calls. You may hear people’s kids, pets, or other noises in the background, which can affect your ability to focus.


Fortunately, with some practice (and an excellent interpreting platform) you can overcome these challenges. Here are five tips to help you step up your remote interpreting game:


  1. Practice speaking clearly to improve your communication.
  2. Practice your intonation and tone to ensure you accurately convey information.
  3. Take voice acting lessons to better express feelings.
  4. Practice interpreting audio and video. Try:
    • Interpreting podcasts as you listen.
    • Interpreting videos from industries you work with.
    • Listening to a range of native and non-native speakers (males and females of various ages).
    • Speeding up videos and trying to formulate the main points.
  1. Prepare your remote interpreting space. That means:
    • Using a USB headset.
    • Experimenting with browsers to see which works best.
    • Knowing your equipment.
    • Creating a quiet, distraction-free environment on your end.


Bonus: Use an interpreting platform, which offers several advantages over telecommunication apps such as Zoom and Skype. Some advantages of using Boostlingo include:


  • Enhanced privacy and security features.
  • HIPAA compliant for telehealth interpreting.
  • EU GDPR compliant for interpreting internationally.
  • Fully reportable—call details are immediately exportable and reportable.
  • Access to backend data support, which Zoom and Skype won’t provide.


The Benefits of Interpreting Platforms


Thanks to innovations in technology, remote interpreting is easier than ever. Interpretation platforms help you manage your schedule, accept on-demand requests, and track your earnings. And as new features such as video conferencing are added, platforms are getting better at meeting clients’ needs—which means for opportunities for interpreters.

Want to find out if Boostlingo’s platform is right for you? Contact us today to learn more!

Why family members don't make the best interpreters

When coming for an appointment or a medical procedure, patients are often accompanied by a family member, a friend or a caregiver. The people accompanying a patient play an important role: moral and physical support, an extra set of ears, an advocate and an ally. And sometimes, family members and friends play another role – they provide language assistance. While asking a family member to interpret might seem like the perfect solution – after all, it’s free of charge and easy to arrange – doing so might be not only unethical, but also dangerous. 


Professional interpreters abide by a code of ethics, which typically includes tenets specifying, among other things, the need for accuracy. Accuracy involves interpreting everything – whether profanity, a silly joke, a critical remark or a serious diagnosis. Family members, with very best of intentions, don’t always accurately interpret what is being said. For example, they might be tempted to soften the message when the patient is critical of medical providers. Doing so takes away from the patient’s autonomy and silences their voice. Additionally, in some cultures it is undesirable to share bad news with the patient as it is believed that it might make the patient depressed and ultimately worse off. As a result,  a cancer diagnosis and suggested treatment options may be reduced to “You’re just a little sick and will get better after taking some pills.”


Professional medical interpreters undergo basic training in order to qualify for national certifying exams. Once interpreters get certified, they are required to receive continuing education. This ensures that interpreters working in healthcare settings have a solid understanding of medical terminology in all their working languages. However, there is no guarantee that family members will be able to use complex medical terminology in both languages. As a result, instead of the exact words the patient uses to describe their past medical diagnoses and procedures, or the detailed explanation a medical provider gives as they present treatment options, the parties might be receiving abbreviated versions or summaries. Why might this be dangerous? From the point of view of the patient, they have a right to be informed of their care and have to understand exactly what a particular treatment involves in order to consent to it. By definition, consent must be informed and given voluntarily. This might not be the case if a patient is agreeing to a procedure while not receiving the full extent of the information. From the provider’s point of view, making an accurate diagnosis and ensuring adherence to treatment requires being able to communicate with the patient directly (with certain exceptions related to a patient’s age and mental capacity). However, this might not be possible if a physician is working off somebody else’s words, which may be inaccurate due to the lack of medical vocabulary needed to explain something, mistaken assumptions or even malicious intent (imagine someone who is perpetrating abuse interpreting for their victim). 


To sum up, there are many ethical and legal consequences that can arise from using ad-hoc interpreters such as family members. To mitigate these consequences, it is always best to use professional interpreters who have been trained in all aspects of interpreting in healthcare settings such as being fluent in medical terminology and maintaining confidentiality, accuracy, and role boundaries. 

As Covid-19 continues to spread, refugees and asylum seekers around the world are left in a uniquely vulnerable position. Crowded living conditions, lack of clean water, and overburdened medical systems are just a few of the challenge millions of people are facing. Even those who have resettled in nations such as the United States still struggle with language barriers as they try to navigate complex healthcare systems. Fortunately, remote interpreting can help them safely receive medical care and other services they need to thrive in their adopted countries.


Healthcare and Remote Interpreting for Refugees


The United States accepts some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, including the elderly and those with acute medical needs. Thanks to Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), healthcare professionals can assist refugees via telemedicine without putting patients, interpreters, or themselves at risk for COVID-19. Patients who have been hospitalized can speak through an interpreter virtually, which allows both parties to maintain social distancing.


Yet refugees may not only need care for their physical health, but their mental health as well. Refugees who have experienced trauma may benefit from speaking with a psychologist or other mental health professional. VRI also lets patients safely seek psychiatric care with the help of an interpreter.


The Advantages of Remote Interpreting


In addition to social distancing, remote interpreting offers several advantages for refugees, their advocates, and government entities who serve them. These include the ability to hire an interpreter who:


  • Speaks a rare language when no one is available locally. A refugee from a country such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo may speak one of 242 different languages, making it difficult to find an interpreter who speaks theirs.


  • Can work on short notice. Refugees not only need an interpreter when they receive medical care, but for visits with social services and legal hearings. When appointments get rescheduled, it can leave refugees without anyone to assist them.


  • Has experience working with refugees. While every refugee has a unique story, all have gone through the devastating experience of fleeing their homeland. Many have fled due to genocide or have been victims of torture and abuse. An interpreter who understand the psychological effects these experiences can have will be better equipped to assist both the refugee and the other parties involved.


A More Affordable Solution


Remote interpreting offers another major advantage for organizations and government entities that assist refugees: reduced costs. By hiring a remote interpreter, you can eliminate wait times and the travel expenses that are associated with bringing someone onsite. For organizations that are already stretched financially, this can help keep costs within budget constraints. While onsite interpreting has its own benefits, remote interpreting can fill the gaps when it isn’t possible due to a variety of situations.


For more information about remote interpreting options, contact Boostlingo today.


Dear Boostlingo Family,


I wanted to say thank you and share something positive with you that I hope you can find encouraging or that you might find it even useful for other interpreters.


I am a conference interpreter, so being used to working mostly from the booth, I wasn’t that often in direct contact with the people benefiting from the service until I started taking calls with Boostlingo’s platform. I have to say that being in direct contact with people, especially in the current difficult circumstances, struggling in some way or another because of the language barrier, has been very rewarding. I love being part of a job that brings people together, that tears down these gaps and barriers and helps some that couldn’t communicate properly or benefit from a service, feel at ease, looked after and understood. I’ve recently had some very touching experiences with people that are in very difficult situations and being a little part of the solution and help that was offered to them was really beautiful. So I wanted to say thanks for the opportunity to be part of the team and the work on OPI and VRI.


I specialise in medical, legal, education and court, so most of what happens during these calls is obviously confidential but I’d like to share with you just the general feeling of what has been happening in several during these calls. Most of the calls are in a medical setting, with people feeling bad and with health workers under so much pressure and stress I could tell the huge difference it made in both patients and health care providers being treated with patience and efficiency. Lots of those calls or videoconferences started with a very tense atmosphere and ended up with doctors, nurses and patients feeling a lot more relaxed, smiling and reassured. Many of the situations have been quite extreme due to the Covid-19 crisis, but still several requestors took a moment to say how much the service had helped them and expressed their appreciation. In a particular family session with a social worker and a family going through very difficult circumstances, both ended the conversation saying how happy they were that they could have such a fluid conversation, understand each other like talking directly and connecting at an emotional level. The social worker congratulated me for the service that made possible what they thought was an amazing therapy session. The mother of the family almost cried when she said that she wanted to thank the interpreter because she’d never had such a session before. Although they were of course the ones that made all the conversation and the therapy came from the qualified health professionals, they all felt that it worked better just because they were treated with patience, not interrupted and the conversation was interpreted in a way that conveyed not only the message but also the feelings and emotions of the original speaker. Hearing them say that and feeling the much happier and relaxed tone of voices by the end of a very long and difficult to interpret session was a real gift. It really puts into perspective the human and caring side of our work that can otherwise get buried by the routine or the calls when people are a bit rude or aggressive.


In another call a person from the education system was offering help to families of the children in their school, offering assistance even with food, medicines, paperwork for community services and checking up on them. The person started the call very stressed having to call lots and lots of different numbers and feeling that she couldn’t probably get through half of what she had to do. We called so many numbers of different families for them that I lost track of how many numbers I dialed just for that service. But just a few calls into it, I could tell she was relaxing and feeling that this way it would be a lot easier than what she had thought before. We both finished the call incredibly satisfied about how much had been done and how smooth some of these very difficult conversations had been. By the end of a long list of third party phone calls the teacher felt that she’d managed to contact everybody, assess the situations properly and even got many days of appointments ready for picking up food and delivering it, organized and made easier with addresses, specific time appointments and all the necessary details. She also thanked us for the service and said that we’d been amazing that day and that she didn’t think she could make it before she got on the phone.


Raquel Maquieira Sans
Interpreter- 3TBox Team