Cafe Lingo


This post continues a series of posts that shine the spotlight on professional organizations for interpreters and translators. In our last post, we talked about the benefits of joining a professional organization and highlighted one such organization – Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS). In today’s post, we picked another West Coast organization –  The California Healthcare Interpreting Association (CHIA). 


CHIA fact file


  • Originally named California Healthcare Interpreter’s Association, CHIA was founded in 1996. The name was changed to its current name – The California Healthcare Interpreting Association. This change reflected the fact that the focus of the organization is not just in interpreters, but the interpreting itself, as well as the well-being of LEP patients. 
  • CHIA currently has around 1500 members across the whole United States. 
  • In 2002, CHIA released Ethical Principles, Protocols, and Guidance on Roles & Interventions (a.k.a the CHIA Standards), the nationally recognized California Standards for Healthcare Interpreters which are written into the state’s legislation. The standards are an invaluable tool and are being used by interpreters across the United States. 
  • CHIA members include not only interpreters and translators, but also medical providers, members of healthcare administrations, and public health and language access advocates and activists. 
  • Member benefits include discounts for CHIA regional trainings, webinars and annual conferences as well as an opportunity to vote in board elections and volunteer in CHIA committees. 


An interview with current CHIA president, Tatiana Foerster 


CHIA is famous for its annual conference that brings interpreters from across the US and even other countries. What are some memorable moments from past CHIA conferences? 


Tatiana: In my opinion, the most memorable panel/keynote was last year when we had all CHIA past and present presidents at the same table. It was interesting to see a history of the organization and changes of the organization and profession through the eyes of its leaders. The 2020 conference was attended by about 500 participants who came from 20 US states and even from other countries such as Japan! 


What are CHIA’s plans for the 2021 conference? 


Tatiana: The 2021 annual conference is going to be virtual and take place on March 5 and 6. We will try to preserve the CHIA spirit and make it not only educational but also fun! For example, conference merchandise will be shipped to your door this year –  T-shirts, mugs and more! Online registration will open on February 5, 2021. The cost will be $150 for all activities on both days. We’ll be applying for CEUs from CCHI, IMIA/NBCMI, RID and WA-DSHS. 


What are some notable facts about CHIA? 


Tatiana: I would say that the most notable fact is the creation of CHIA standards that are used not only in California but nationwide. Also, CHIA has only one employee.  All Board members are volunteers! They participate in CHIA for the love of the organization and for the love of the profession.


African American Linguists

Historically, African American linguists have been overlooked. However, their contributions have provided significant insights into indigenous, African, European, and creole languages that are spoken throughout the world. In honor of Black History Month, we’re shining a spotlight on three famous African American linguists, and the work they’ve done to advance the field.


Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890 – 1972)


Dubbed the father of Gullah Studies, Lorenzo Dow Turner was one of the first African American linguists. He’s best known for his research on the Gullah language of the Low Country in South Carolina and Georgia. Although Gullah was classified as a dialect of English, Turner argued that it should be considered a separate language due to the influence from African languages. In 1949, he published Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect, which explores this linguistic phenomenon.


Throughout his career, Turner traveled to Louisiana, Sierra Leone, and Brazil to study Creole and Portuguese. He also served as the Head of the English Department at Howard University and Fisk University for a combined total of 30 years. While working at the latter, he developed the first African Studies curriculum in the United States.


Mark Hanna Watkins (1903 – 1976)


The first African American to earn a PhD with a dissertation in linguistics, Mark Hanna Watkins is known for his research on indigenous and African languages. In 1933, he completed a Master’s degree at the University of Chicago. His thesis focused on the relationship of seven related indigenous languages in Mexico. Three years later, he completed his PhD in Anthropology. His dissertation, A Grammar of Chichewa: A Bantu Language of British Central Africa, remains the only full-length reference on the grammar of the language.


Turner spent most of his career researching and writing about the languages and cultures of Africa, Native Americans, African Americans, and Haitians. While serving as a professor at Fisk University, he became one of the six faculty members to join the first African Studies program.


John Hamilton McWhorter (1965 – )


Better known to the public for his cultural criticism, John Hamilton McWhorter is the only living linguist on our list. An associate professor of English Literature at Columbia University, much of his academic research is on creoles and their relationships to other languages. He has a particular interest in the Surinam creole language Saramaccan.


In addition to his academic research, McWhorter has written two non-academic books on linguistics: What Language Is and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue. He also hosts a podcast on linguistics and language learning called Lexicon Valley.


Are there any other African American linguists you’d like to celebrate? Give them a shout out in the comments!

Machine translation (MT) accuracy has improved significantly in recent years. In fact, a 2019 study on patient instructions found that 92% of sentences were accurately translated into Spanish, while 81% translated into Chinese were. As translation and interpreting apps continue to refine their capabilities, they pose an important question: will they replace human medical interpreters?


The short answer is no. While MT can produce simple instructions or definitions, it still lacks the ability to determine context. Natural languages are nuanced, and cultural differences even among speakers of the same language can change the meaning of words or phrases. Yet interpreting apps still offer several benefits for patients, healthcare professionals, and the interpreters themselves. But before we dive into the benefits, let’s take a look at a few types of medical apps on the market today.


Types of Medical Interpreting Apps


Not all medical interpreting apps serve the same function. Speech-to-text or text-to-text apps can produce a basic translation of a conversation between patients and health professionals. Others are pre-programed with words and phrases to help a patient understand a specific treatment or medical procedure. Another type includes visual icons to help patients answer questions or make requests by pressing a button.


The Benefits of Medical Interpreting Apps


Each type of app works to help breakdown communication barriers between patients and medical staff. They can also:


  • Reduce the cost of medical interpretation and the wait time associated with interpreting. Healthcare professionals can collect basic information from patients before they connect with an interpreter. This also allows providers to give interpreters some background before they start a session.
  • Improve the accuracy of patient forms. Medical interpreters usually aren’t the ones filling out patient forms, which can lead to staff errors. When patients can see what was recorded with a speech-to-text app, they can immediately correct an error. This improves insurance reimbursement, billing, and healthcare management.
  • Help healthcare professionals determine if patients understand their questions. Medical apps give healthcare professionals a written record of the conversation, which helps them determine if both the patient and interpreter understood them. This opportunity to clarify any misunderstanding can improve health outcomes and reduce the need for readmission.


As you can see, instead of replacing medical interpreters, medical apps actually serve as a tool to improve accuracy and patient experiences.


Medical Interpreters and Boostlingo


Despite the advance in machine translation, medical interpreters will continue to play a vital role in patient care. Fortunately, Boostlingo’s interpreting platform makes it easy to connect with interpreters who speak over 200 languages. You can connect in minutes using our over-the-phone (OPI) or video remove (VRI) options or schedule an onsite interpreter for upcoming appointments. Best of all, it’s easy to use. All you need is a computer or tablet, an internet connection, and a web cam for video calls.


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

ASL Interpreter

Sign language has a rich history in North America. Long before the arrival of Europeans, indigenous tribes developed sign languages to communicate with deaf members. American Sign Language (ASL), on the other hand, traces its roots back to 19th century France. And like any language, ASL has evolved to reflect the cultural and regional differences of its users. Here’s a look at four ASL accents, and how they came to be.


Black American Sign Language


One of the most famous accents, Black ASL developed as a result of racial segregation in the United States. Deaf African American children, like their hearing counterparts, attended segregated schools. Over time, they developed a dialect of ASL that includes African American idioms, slang, and other cultural references.


Black ASL has larger spacing, which means some signs are produced further from the body. Users also tend to prefer signing with two hands, instead of one. However, many deaf African Americans switch between ASL and Black ASL, depending on the context of the conversation. In linguistics, this is known as code-switching.


Regional Differences in American Sign Language


Given that spoken languages have regional accents, it should come as no surprise that ASL does too. Below are just three of them:



  • The City of Brotherly Love may not have a famous spoken accent, but it certainly does in ASL. Philadelphia sign language remains closer to French Sign Language, and retains some of its signs. Linguistics believe the accent traces its roots back to the first deaf school in the city, which opened in 1820 and closed in 1984. The longevity of this institution may have helped perverse this unique accent. Unfortunately, it’s disappearing among younger ASL users.


  • The American South is known for its laid-back lifestyle and slower speech patterns. Similarly, Southern ASL users draw out signs to mimic the famous Southern drawl. They also touch their lower face and chest more when they communicate.


ASL Interpreters and Boostlingo


Regardless of their accent, ASL users often need the help of an interpreter when they interact with the hearing world. And that’s where Boostlingo comes in. Our video remote interpreting (VRI) platform makes it easy for professionals in healthcare, legal, and corporate settings to connect with an ASL interpreter. All you need is a high-speed internet connection, a computer or tablet, and a webcam.


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

Interpreting Mental Health

Depending on where they work, medical interpreters can expect to find themselves interpreting in a wide variety of settings – from cardiology and urology to childbirth and eye surgery. However, there is one field that stands out for its unique interpreting challenges – mental health. Encounters related to mental health may take place across many settings and modalities, including inpatient psychiatric wards, over-the-phone counseling sessions, in-office neuropsychological assessment, and group therapy sessions. Topics covered can also vary widely and may include discussions related to addiction, eating disorders, serious psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or severe depression, bereavement and anxiety. In addition, interpreters may find themselves challenged as they try to faithfully render a message that is extremely long, rambling or incoherent, where clarification or repetition may be impossible due to a patient’s condition or undesirable for fear of interrupting the patient’s painful recollection of a traumatic event. 

In order to be better prepared for interpreting in mental health settings, interpreters should consider educating themselves on all things mental health. To help with this, we put together a list of helpful resources to choose from. 


Educational Resources


Mental Health Training Series from Americans Against Language Barriers 

Kelly Henriquez, a certified Spanish medical interpreter, is working on a series of lectures which are free to watch – you only pay if you’d like to receive CEUs. Currently 2 out of 13 lectures are available to watch. 


10 or 40-Hour Mental Health Interpreting CEU Course from MITIO 

This online course has two duration options – 10 or 40 hours. It includes self-paced content as well as interactive practice and discussion opportunities. 


Psychiatric Interviews: The Impact of Language from ALTA 

This is a one-hour on demand class that offers participants an opportunity to learn about how to effectively interpret the questions and answers in mental health appointments.


Interpreting in Mental Health, a 25-hour Online Course for Advanced Skills from Cross Cultural Communication Systems. 

This course offers insights into common mental health disorders and interpreting challenges and includes numerous interactive practice activities. 


Introduction to interpreting for mental health from HCIN Learn 

A 1.5-long recording of a 2019 webinar presented by mental health professionals from Hennepin Healthcare which includes an overview of the mental health field and provides recommendations for best interpreting practices. 




What Is Mental Health Interpreting? Subject to Interpretation podcast 

This podcast episode includes an interview with Arianna Aguilar, who has extensive experience in and a passion for interpreting in mental health. 


Latinx Therapy 

This weekly podcast discusses mental health topics related to Latinas, Latinos, and Latinx individuals.


Stories of Stigma: South Asian Mental Health

This podcast series features guests who share their experience or expertise on unique topics related to South Asian Mental Health. 




Other Tongues: Psychological therapies in a multilingual world

The author Beverly Costa argues that a profession that practises ‘talking therapy’ should consider more carefully the challenges and opportunities working multilingually presents. She also explores the important role of interpreters in giving a voice to clients who do not speak English as a first language, and offers guidance on good practice to counsellors working with them.


The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

This book consists of short stories detailing personal encounters between a British psychoanalyst and his patients. 


Whether you decide to attend a class, listen to a podcast, read a book or all of the above, we hope that the suggested resources can help interpreters prepare to interpret in mental health settings! 

Remote Interpreting

Everyone has an accent. No matter where you’re from, you sound foreign to someone—even in your native language. However, as an interpreter, you need to ensure yours doesn’t interfere with your ability to communicate. While you don’t need to erase your accent, modifying it can definitely make your job easier. And that’s especially true when it comes to remote interpreting.


The Unique Challenges of Remote Interpreting   


Over-the-phone (OPI) and video remote interpreting have created new opportunities for interpreters around the world. Yet even though it’s easier than ever to accept an assignment, remote interpreting has its challenges. Here are just three you need to be aware of:


  1. A wider pool of clients means a wider pool of accents. When you connect remotely, you may encounter unfamiliar accents that are difficult to understand—and the other parties may think the same about yours.


  1. Remote communication requires more mental energy than in-person conversations. (Yes, Zoom fatigue is real.) Your accent, which may not cause a problem in person, may add an additional hurdle for listeners who are struggling to maintain their focus.


  1. Technical glitches such as poor audio and video lags make any conversation taxing. Add in an interpreter with an unfamiliar accent, and one or both parties may be left wondering if they misunderstood what you said.


3 Tips to Improve Your Accent


Now that you know why accents can pose a problem for remote interpreters, let’s take a look at a few techniques that can improve yours. Again, you don’t need to scrub your regional accent or sound like a native in your second language. These are just tips to help you improve your communication skills.


  1. Listen to News Broadcasts in Your Target Language(s). Broadcast journalists are trained to speak in an “neutral” accent to ensure the largest number of listeners can understand them. You don’t need to sound exactly like one, but smoothing out your pronunciation like they do will make it easier for listeners to understand you.


  1. Practice Speaking Clearly. No matter your accent, speaking clearly is an essential component of interpreting. Practicing your pronunciation in your target language(s) can greatly improve your interpreting skills—both remotely and onsite. Try recording yourself and take note of where you can make improvements.


  1. Take Accent Reduction Lessons. If you prefer to work with an instructor, consider taking accent reduction lessons. Actors, public speakers, and foreign language learners from all backgrounds have benefited from the extra help.     


Remote Interpreting with Boostlingo


Once you’re ready to accept remote interpreting assignments, you need a platform that makes it easy to connect with clients. That’s where Boostlingo comes in. Our interpreting platform let’s you manage your onsite interpreting schedule, accept remote assignments, and track your hours. All you need is an internet connection, computer or mobile device, and a webcam.


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


Languages Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a major crisis in the U.S. healthcare system: a lack of language support for limited English proficiency (LEP) speakers. Yet the success of the vaccine depends on reaching millions of residents—including those with limited English skills. That means healthcare providers must ramp up their efforts to hire medical interpreters who can bridge the language gap. While the demand for Spanish interpreters is a given, let’s look at the seven fastest growing languages that your patients may speak.


  1. Telugu – Up 86%


Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken by the Telugu people in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It’s also a scheduled language of India.


Around 415,400 Telugu speakers live in the U.S. The majority reside in NYC, Long Island, Central New Jersey, Northern Virginia, and Central and Southern California.


  1. Arabic – Up 42%


The official language of 23 countries throughout the Middle East and Africa, Arabic is spoken by 580 million people around the world.


Roughly 1.1 million Arabic speakers live in the United States. States with the largest Arabic speaking populations include: California, Michigan, New York, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio.


  1. & 4. Hindi – Up 32%; Urdu – Up 30%


Registers of the Hindustani language, Hindi and Urdu belong to the Indo-Aryan language family. Both are official languages of India.


Hindi is the largest spoken Indian language in the U.S, with 863,077 speakers, while Urdu is spoken by 507,329 speakers. The majority live in California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Texas.


  1. Chinese – Up 23%


The most widely spoken language in the world, Chinese is an official language of Mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan, Myanmar, Hong Kong, and Macau.


It’s also the third most widely spoken language in the U.S., with roughly 3.5 million speakers.

The metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore-Washington, Seattle, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Delaware Valley all have large Chinese-speaking communities.


  1. Gujarati – Up 22%


Gujarati is a Western Indo-Aryan language spoken primarily in the Indian state of Gujarat. It’s also an official language of India.


Roughly 434,264 speakers live in the U.S. Most live in New Jersey and the metropolitan areas of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia.


  1. Haitian Creole – Up 19%


A French-based creole, Haitian Creole is the official language of Haiti and is recognized as a minority language in the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.


In the U.S., approximately 856,000 people speak the language, most of whom live in

Florida, New York, Delaware, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.


Language Support and Boostlingo   


Finding an interpreter can be a difficult task, especially for a less common language. Fortunately, the BoostCare Telehealth platform makes it easy to connect with one remotely, either over-the-phone (OPI) or via video remote (VRI). All you need is an internet connection, computer or mobile device, and a webcam for video calls. Plus, our Boostlingo Professional Interpreters Network (BPIN) gives you access to interpreters who speak over 200 languages.


Want to learn more? Contact us today to start your free trial!


Interpreting Errors

Language barriers pose a major challenge when it comes to accessing health care. Limited English proficiency (LEP) patients often struggle to make appointments—let alone describe symptoms or understand recommendations. Medical interpreters can help, but healthcare professionals don’t always provide one due to the cost. Yet failure to do so can result in serious medical mistakes. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at three medical malpractice cases and how to avoid errors like these.


The Willie Ramirez Case


Often referred to as the most expensive medical interpreting error, the failure to understand one word changed the life of Willie Ramirez. In 1980, the 18-year-old arrived at a South Florida hospital in a comatose state. His Spanish-speaking mother explained that he was “intoxicado”—which meant suffering from food poisoning.


Doctors mistakenly believed that meant he overdosed on drugs or alcohol. But Willie had actually suffered from a brain hemorrhage and was left quadriplegic as a result. Had a neurosurgeon been called immediately, he could have avoided this fate. He won a $71 million settlement as a result.


This case highlights just one reason why family members don’t make the best interpreters. Had doctors connected with a medical interpreter who understood Spanish, Willie could have avoided paralysis.


The Tran Family Case


A nine-year-old girl in California arrived at the hospital with what seemed to be a serious case of the stomach flu. Her parents only spoke Vietnamese, yet the hospital failed to request an interpreter. Instead, the girl and her 16-year-old brother tried to interpret. A doctor sent the family home with a prescription and instructions in English. The girl later had a reaction to the drug and died of a heart attack. The doctor and the hospital settled the malpractice claim for $200,000.


As this case shows, children should never be tasked with interpreting—especially for their parents. They not only lack the proper vocabulary, but the maturity level to fulfill the role.

A medical interpreter could have given the parents proper instructions, and the girl likely would have lived.


The Teresa Tarry Case


A British citizen living in Spain, Teresa Tarry underwent an unnecessary double mastectomy because of a translation error in her medical records. A doctor found a benign lump during an exam, and wrongly believed that she had a family history of breast cancer. Teresa, who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish, claimed she was never offered an interpreter. She sued the hospital for €600,000.


As this case shows, even patients who speak the language may need assistance. An interpreter could have clarified Teresa’s family history, and she would have avoided unnecessary surgery.


Connecting with a Remote Interpreting  


Of course, waiting for an onsite interpreter isn’t always an option. Fortunately, over-the-phone (OPI) and video remote interpreting (VRI) make it possible to connect with one almost anywhere. And here’s where BoostCare Telehealth comes in. This easy-to-use, HIPPA-compliant platform let’s you connect with interpreters who speak over 200 languages in minutes!

It’s a fast, affordable alternative to onsite interpreting.


Want to learn more about how BoostCare can improve your practice? Contact us today to start your free trial!


Books Interpreters

One of the greatest things about being an interpreter is that you are always learning something new. Interpreters learn deliberately by attending continuing education classes and conferences, by looking up relevant terminology, but also unintentionally, just by virtue of doing their jobs. Any interpreter worth their salt will spend hours if not days preparing for new assignments, whether it is a medical appointment for an unfamiliar specialty or a complex court case. However, sometimes it is worth taking a step back and learning about the profession itself! To help with that, we prepared a selection of our favorite books about interpreting and interpreters. 


Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos

This book will be of interest to new and experienced interpreters alike, as well as anyone interested in languages and communication. David Bellos writes about the history of interpreting and translation, language, culture and human connection. 


Healthcare Interpreting in Small Bites by Cindy Roat 

Written by Cindy Roat, a national language access consultant and a veteran interpreter trainer, this book is a treasure trove of useful insights and practical tips for medical interpreters. Even the most seasoned interpreter can learn from reading this book – and it is definitely a must-read for those starting out in the field. 


Interpretation: Techniques and Exercises by James Nolan 

This book has everything you need to know about conference interpreting, and more. Despite being aimed primarily at conference interpreters, it will be of interest and use to interpreters in any field. Starting out with an overview of interpreting modes and the difference between interpreting and translation, it moves on to guidance and practical exercises in interpreting everything from political speeches to idioms. 


Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words by Ella Frances Sanders 

This book is an absolute delight and will be of interest to anyone interested in all things language and translation. Containing beautiful and quirky illustrations of over 50 words from the world’s languages, this book is a perfect escape into the peculiar world of untranslatable words. 


Daniel Stein, Interpreter: A Novel by Ludmila Ulitskaya 

This book, translated from Russian, tells the story of Daniel Stein, a Polish Jew who narrowly survives the Holocaust by working for the Gestapo as an interpreter.  While this particular book is a work of fiction, it does have a basis in real life – Daniel Stein is based on a real person, Oswald Rufeisen, a Carmelite priest. Daniel’s story is told through letters and other documents, letting the reader figure out the rest for themselves. 


Happy reading! 

Medical interpreters

As more COVID-19 vaccines undergo clinical trials, the end of the pandemic may soon be in sight. However, developing a vaccine is only the first step. Distributing it throughout the U.S. population will pose another challenge—particularly in communities of color. Although groups such as Blacks and Latinos are at a higher risk for serious complications, many of them mistrust the medical establishment.


In order to keep all Americans safe, healthcare professionals will need to build trust in these communities through education and outreach. That means medical interpreters will play a vital role in Latino and other limited English proficiency (LEP) communities. But before we dive into the benefits of medical interpreting, let’s take a look at some statistics.


The Trust Gap in Black and Latino Communities


A study by Langer Research found that only 66% of Latinos would agree to a coronavirus vaccine, even if it were free of charge. That number drops below 50% among Black respondents. Doubts about safety and effectiveness seem to drive these numbers as only:


  • 14% of Black people trust that the vaccine is safe, while 18% trust it will be effective.
  • 34% of Latinos trust the vaccine’s safety, and 40% trust its effectiveness.


Black respondents also cited historical reasons for their mistrust. Medical experiments, such as the Tuskegee syphilis study, were conducted without the knowledge or consent of Black participants. Latinos mentioned similar fears as well as lack of trust in the government to have their best interests in mind.


The nonprofit that commissioned the report expressed concerns about a similar hesitancy among Native Americans, Asians, and other non-white ethnic groups.


How Medical Interpreters Can Help


While there’s no quick fix to improve trust, providing accurate information and taking the time to address concerns may go a long way. As healthcare professionals begin outreach, they’ll also need to provide language support for members of LEP communities. And here’s where professional medical interpreters come in.


Although bilingual staff and family members are often called upon to help, they typically don’t make the best interpreters. That’s because medical interpreters are specially trained in interpreting and medical terminology. They also serve as a neutral third-party whose sole purpose is to facilitate communication between the patient and the healthcare provider. Patients may feel more comfortable using an interpreter for this very reason.


Why Remote Medical Interpreting Is a Safer Choice


Bringing an interpreter onsite is often the best option. However, due to the health risks, healthcare providers may prefer to connect with a medical interpreter remotely—either via video remote or over the phone.

Fortunately, the BoostCare Telehealth platform makes it easy to connect with a medical interpreter within minutes. Our Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network (BPIN) includes interpreters who speak over 200 languages and are ready to assist.


Think Boostlingo may be right for your practice? Contact us today to start your free trial!