Cafe Lingo

Interpreters and Translator

Today we start a series of posts spotlighting professional organizations for interpreters and translators. There are many benefits to joining a professional organization such as being listed in a member directory, receiving access to free or discounted classes, and opportunities to network with colleagues. The latter is especially important now – in the era of social distancing and cancelled events, it can be hard to find ways to connect with fellow interpreters. This is where professional communities come in – and today, we are learning about one such community: Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS), a Chapter of the American Translators Association (ATA).


About NOTIS 


Having started as an informal group of ATA members in Washington state, the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society held its inaugural meeting at the University of Washington on June 4, 1988. As of today, NOTIS has 575 active members in the five states it covers (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska), which makes NOTIS the biggest chapter in the ATA. 

Member benefits include being listed in the online member directory, getting access to a members-only job board, an opportunity to be published in the NOTIS newsletter and blog, opportunities to attend NOTIS events free or at a reduced members-only rate, and a chance to win a NOTIS Translation/Interpretation Scholarship. 


To find out what makes NOTIS a community worth joining, we interviewed Shelley Fairweather-Vega, NOTIS president and freelance Russian to English translator.


Who should consider joining NOTIS? 


Shelley Fairweather-Vega: “Everyone who works in any language field in the Pacific Northwest! We’re the professional home of interpreters and translators at all stages of their careers (students to retirees), working in all fields (medical to literary), working in all kinds of settings (tech companies to courts, freelance and in-house). We often work alone, and time with our colleagues is priceless. NOTIS brings people together to compare notes on language services across different languages and fields. By learning more about the work our colleagues do, we gain a better perspective on our own work and discover more possibilities for our own future careers. 


The benefits of a robust local organization are more obvious when we can get together in person. In pre-COVID times, every NOTIS workshop or happy hour brought in colleagues new to the field or new to the organization, who were always happy to discover this professional community waiting for them.

Now, with events all online, it’s more difficult to get a sense of that local camaraderie. But it’s still there. We have not seen a dropoff in membership since the pandemic hit, even though some of our members have experienced a drop in income during these difficult times. That tells me that our members value belonging to NOTIS and intend to stick with us until we can see each other in person again. And meanwhile, our online events have been extremely well-attended. NOTIS offers trainings that other organizations are not providing, everything from small literary translation workshops to sessions on very specific medical terminology for interpreters, court interpreting skills to discussions on vicarious trauma. Membership is inexpensive – student membership is just $15 per year, and individual professional membership is $45. We always welcome new members.”

certified interpreter

The Coronavirus pandemic has exposed the unmet need for medical interpreters throughout the United States. In April 2020, the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky saw Spanish and Amharic medical interpreters providing assistance to 30 to 40 people each day. And that’s just one hospital and two languages!


As the number of limited-English speakers continues to rise, so does the demand for certified medical interpreters who can assist patients and healthcare professionals. That means now is the perfect time to become one.


Education and Training for Medical Interpreters


While the career path is different for everyone, you must have at least a high school or equivalent diploma. Some interpreters earn Bachelor’s degrees in foreign languages, translation studies, or in healthcare-related fields. Others enroll in medical interpreting certificate programs that require a certain number of training hours to complete. (These are typically offered by universities and are different from national certifications.)


Many hospitals, clinics, and healthcare systems have their own in-house requirements for hiring interpreters. You don’t need to become certified, but it’s the best way to ensure you can work anywhere.


Certifications for Medical Interpreters  


Unlike legal interpreting, few states offer certification. However, there are two national organizations that certify medical interpreters. The qualifications are similar, but there are a few key differences. Let’s take a look at each:


The Certification Commission for Health Care Interpreters (CCHI)


To get certified through the CCHI, you must:


  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a U.S. high school diploma (or GED) or the equivalent from another country.
  • Complete a minimum of 40 hours of medical interpreter training.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in English and the language for which you’re seeking certification.
  • Pass the CoreCHI, a 100 multiple-choice computer-based exam that covers the basics of medical interpreting.
  • Pass an oral exam in English and the target language, if you want to get certified for Arabic, Mandarin, or Spanish.


You’ll also need to complete 16 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain your CCHI certification.


The National Board for Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)


The NBCMI only offers certification exams for Spanish, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese. To get certified, you must:


  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a high school diploma (or GED).
  • Complete a minimum of 40 hours of medical interpreter training.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in English and the language for which you’re seeking certification.
  • Pass a multiple-choice written exam in English.
  • Pass an oral exam after you’ve passed the written exam.


To maintain your NBCMI, you’ll need to complete 30 hours of approved training every five years.


Preparing for the Future


Once you become a certificated medical interpreter, you can work anywhere in the U.S. And telehealth and remote interpreting options make it easier than ever to accept assignments no matter where you live.


If you’re already a working medical interpreter, give Boostlingo’s interpreting platform a try. You can manage your onsite schedule, take on-demand video or over-the-phone requests, and more!



COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Latino communities across the United States. In a recent NPR interview, Dr. Joseph Betancourt of Massachusetts General Hospital cites two troubling statistics: Latinos are hospitalized at 4X the rate of White Americans and make up 26% of the deaths.


Why the Coronavirus Hits Latino Communities Harder


Several factors, including the virus’ long incubation period, have created a perfect storm, according to Dr. Betancourt. First, Latinos are more likely to be essential workers, which increases their risk of exposure. They also tend to live in densely populated areas and often live with extended family, making it easier for the virus to spread.


However, these aren’t the only reasons COVID-19 has taken a stronghold. Unfortunately, Latinos are also more likely to:


  • Suffer from pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and asthma.
  • Have less access to healthcare.
  • Face immigration issues that deter them from seeking care.
  • Experience language barriers in healthcare settings.


How to Improve Healthcare Outcomes


While investment in public health and changes to immigration policy are necessary for long-term improvements, there are several ways healthcare providers can help today. Dr. Betancourt recommends:


  • Getting public health messages out in ways the Latino communities understand, preferably from trusted speakers.
  • Building trust by acknowledging mistakes experts have made, such as discouraging the use of face masks.
  • Making healthcare more culturally and linguistically competent.


That last point is especially important for healthcare professionals who are battling Coronavirus on the front lines. Medical interpreters have traditionally arrived onsite to help patients and healthcare providers communicate, yet that’s not longer a safe option during the pandemic. Here’s where telehealth and remote interpreting come in.


How to Safely Bridge the Language Gap


Boostlingo’s over-the-phone interpreting and video remote interpreting options make it easy to connect with a qualified Spanish-speaking interpreter in seconds. Patients can speak with a medical professional in their native language at home via telehealth or in a hospital setting, without putting the interpreter at risk.


Our new video conferencing feature allows multiple parties in different locations to join the call to ensure the best possible outcomes. For example, a doctor who’s treating a patient with a pre-existing condition may want to invite a specialist to the call. Or a caretaker may need to speak with a doctor or nurse about treatment options and precautions to take. Plus, it’s easy to use! Our HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform requires no installation, and users never need to login. Because we’ve designed it with limited-English speakers in mind, your patients no longer have to shy away from telehealth.


Want to learn more about how Boostlingo can help you improve patient care? Contact us today to schedule your free demo!

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!