Cafe Lingo

Did you know? There are actually three modes of interpretation. Interpreters typically use either consecutive or simultaneous interpretation during a session. However, there’s a third, lesser used mode: sight translation. So, what is sight translation and when do interpreters use it?


A Brief Introduction to Sight Translation


Despite the name, this mode involves orally translating from one language to another. When a written text must be read aloud in a different language, interpreters use sight translation to do so. Upon request, an interpreter will silently read the text and then convey the message out loud to the audience in the target language.


Interpreters typically use sight translation in medical settings, but may also use it in courtrooms, schools, or in corporate settings. During a session, an interpreter may sight translate forms, instructions, brochures, letters, or other short documents.


While most interpreters are trained on best practices for sight translation, they aren’t professional translators. Documents that are longer than one to two pages or include complex information should be translated beforehand.


Sight Translation in Healthcare   


Now that you know a little more about sight translation, let’s take a look at a few examples in healthcare.


Medical interpreters may sight translate:


  • Handouts with information about a patient’s condition.
  • Instructions for aftercare or prescriptions.
  • Insurance or other registration forms, if they’re unavailable in a patient’s native language.


Medical interpreters typically won’t sight translate:


  • Lengthy pamphlets with complex information about a condition or procedure.
  • Consent forms for procedures. This is because the interpreter’s role is to interpreter between two parties, not obtain consent.


Medical interpreters may or may not translate:


  • Patients’ documents or medical records from their home country. Interpreters typically evaluate these on a case-by-case basis.


If you’d like to see a few scenarios in action, check out EthnoMed’s video series on the topic.


Sight Translation in Other Settings


In the courtroom, legal interpreters may sight translate texts that are part of exhibits for the benefit of a witness who doesn’t speak English. They may also sight translate portions of English documents into the witness’s native language. However, most documents should be professionally translated beforehand due to the high degree of accuracy needed in legal proceedings.


In schools, educational interpreters may sight translate registration forms or other short documents that inform parents about school procedures. They may also sight translate a letter or notice a parent received during a parent-teacher conference.


Additionally, corporate interpreters often perform sight translations during business meetings or conferences. This may involve sight translating texts that are part of a presentation or other short documents.


Final Thoughts


Although sight translation is helpful, it isn’t appropriate for all types of texts. If you’re unsure of whether an interpreter should perform a sight translation, ask beforehand. This will help cut down on the confusion during a session and help ensure it goes smoothly!

Hiring best practices dictate that you verify a candidate’s skill set before you make an offer. When it comes to interpreters, translators, and bilingual employees, that means evaluating language skills. Yet even if you’re fluent in the language pairs, it’s difficult to do this yourself. That’s why many organizations ask candidates to complete a language proficiency exam. However, like most things in life, there are pros and cons to going this route.


Types of Language Testing


Before we dive into the pros and cons, let’s take a look at the most common types of language proficiency exams. These include:


  • Speaking and listening
  • Writing skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Interpretation
  • Translation


Industry-specific exams focus on the language requirements and terminology a candidate must know to be successful in the role. Industries that rely on specialized testing include, but aren’t limited to:


  • Medical
  • Legal
  • Government
  • Customer service


The Pros of Language Testing


Now that you know a little more about language proficiency exams, let’s take a look at the benefits of using them during the hiring process.


  1. They provide an objective measure of a candidate’s skillset. While degrees, certificates, past experience, and recommendations are useful, test results can help you evaluate someone’s current skill set.
  2. They’re available in over 100 languages. National and state certification exams for industries such as medical and legal are typically only available for a handful of major languages. Testing allows you to evaluate a candidate’s skills when no certification test exists for the language you need.
  3. They’re tailored for various industries. If you’re hiring within an industry without an established certification process, testing will help you evaluate a candidate’s language skills.


The Cons of Language Testing


Although language proficiency exams are a useful tool, they do have a few drawbacks. These include the following.

  1. They can be costly. Language tests are typically administered by a third-party (often a language service provider) and the costs can add up when you test multiple candidates.
  2. They can reduce the diversity of the candidate pool. Asking candidates to provide exam results (and cover the costs themselves) can deter them from applying. People who identify as a racial or ethnic minority or have a disability are more likely to be low income and may be unable to pay for the exam.
  3. They’re time consuming. Testing increases the time it takes to move candidates through the hiring process. And candidates who apply at multiple organizations may be require to keep retaking proficiency exams, depending on hiring policies.


Final Thoughts


Despite a few drawbacks, language proficiency testing is still one of the best ways to determine a candidate’s language skills when no certification process exists. It’s particularly useful for languages of less diffusion and within industries that don’t have a standardized method for evaluating language skills.


Does your organization require candidates to complete a language proficiency exam? If so, how has this impacted the hiring process? Let us know in the comments!

Did you know? November is Native American Heritage Month. Established in 1990, it celebrates the history, cultures, and contributions of Native Americans throughout the United States. While this recognition is long overdue, it also highlights the fact that many indigenous languages—and cultures—are endangered. That’s why we’re shining a spotlight on five Native American linguists who have worked to preserve their language and culture.


Sequoyah (c. 1770 – 1843)


A Cherokee polymath, Sequoyah was born in Tuskegee, Cherokee Nation near present-day Knoxville, Tennessee. He is best known for his creation of the Cherokee syllabary, which made it possible to read and write in the language. His achievement allowed the Cherokee Nation to become one of the first North American indigenous groups to have a written language. It also inspired members of other pre-literate groups throughout the world to develop their own writing systems.


Parker McKenzie (1897 – 1999)


Born in Mountainview, Oklahoma, Parker McKenzie belonged to the Kiowa Tribe. He served as a Kiowa translator for anthropologist John Peabody Harrington, and the two worked to develop the Kiowa orthography that’s still used today. He also contributed to three books on the language including A Grammar of Kiowa by anthropologist Laurel J. Watkins.


Emory Sekaquaptewa (1928 – 2007)


Known as “The First Hopi”, Emory Sekaquaptewa was a Hopi leader, scholar, and linguist. Born on the Hopi Reservation of Northern Arizona, he is best known for his work on the first Hopi dictionary. The dictionary, which includes 30,000 words, helped revive the language. He also served as a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona from 1972 to 2007.


Linda Yamane (1949 –)


Born in San Jose, California, Linda Yamane is a Rumsien Ohlone artist, historian, and language preservationist. She is known for almost single-handedly reviving the Rumsien language, after the last speaker died in 1939. In the mid-1980s, she began researching the language and translated Rumsien documents into English. Using a cassette tape of wax cylinder recordings, she was able to better understand pronunciation and further develop a dictionary.


Jesse Little Doe Baird (1963 –)


Born in Wareham, Massachusetts, Jesse Little Doe Baird is Wampanoag linguist and indigenous language preservationist. She is best known for her work to revive the Wampanoag language. While studying with linguist Kenneth L. Hale, the two collaborated on the creation of a Wampanoag language database. She and her work are the subject of the PBS documentary We Still Live Here.


Are there any Native American linguists you’d like to celebrate this month? Let us know in the comments!

Imagine your house is on fire. You frantically dial 911, but the operator hangs up because you spoke in Spanish. A terrifying thought, right? Unfortunately, this may have happened to Heriberto Santiago Jr. of Allentown, Pennsylvania on July 27, 2020.


Former 911 dispatchers have filed a lawsuit claiming that the operator who answered the call made no effort to connect with a translation service. As a result, Santiago and his nephew died in a house fire. The lawsuit goes on to allege that discrimination against Spanish speakers was a common practice at Lehigh County’s emergency call center. And while the country solicitor has dismissed the claim, the incident highlights the need for 911 interpreters.


The Vital Role of 911 Interpreters


Had the operator connected with a 911 interpreter, Santiago and his nephew may have survived. Santiago could have explained that his three story-home was on fire, and that he needed firefighters to arrive right away. Yet two people lost their lives partly because of a language barrier.


However, not just anyone who is bilingual can fulfill the role. 911 interpreters are actually specialized medical interpreters who undergo training to assist during these high-stakes calls. They must learn how to remain calm and accurately communicate in even the most stressful situations.


911 Interpreters at Boostlingo


Beyond language skills and nerves of steel, independent 911 interpreters who join our Boostlingo Professional Interpreters Network (BPIN) must meet the following requirements:


  • A minimum of 60 hours of medical interpreter training.
  • A minimum of three years of medical interpreting experience.
  • Completion of required continuing education units (CEUs).
  • Evidence of current HIPAA compliance, which must be updated every two years.


Interpreters must also follow our established protocol. Here’s how it works: someone makes an emergency call, and it’s routed to the requested language and type. The interpreter then answers the call with the greeting, “Hello my name is NAME and my ID number is NUMBER, and I am your language interpreter. How may I help you?”


If you’d like to learn more about the process, check out our blog Taking Emergency Calls: A Spotlight on 911 Interpreters.


Partner with Us


As you can see, 911 interpreters play an essential role in any jurisdiction’s emergency service. Providing an interpreter can make the difference between life or death when someone calls for assistance. Because of this, the interpreters in our BPIN network are among the best in the industry.


Want to learn more about how we can assist your emergency call center? Contact us today!

“Google Translate is a useful tool with an alarming capacity for error.” That’s what a Pennsylvania District Judge wrote in his October 2021 ruling on a case that involved obtaining information from a Spanish-speaking driver through the app. The incident, which reignited questions about whether Google Translate is sufficient for requesting consent to search, has highlighted the need for legal interpreters in law enforcement.


Fortunately, remote options have made connecting with a legal interpreter faster and easier than ever. But before we dive into how remote legal interpreting helps ensure justice, let’s take a look at the use of Google Translate in law enforcement.


A Brief History of Google Translate in the Courts


In 2018, Ryan Wolting, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper, pulled over Omar Cruz-Zamora, a Mexican native with a U.S. visa. Wolting used Google Translate to ask several questions, including whether he could search Cruz-Zamora’s vehicle. Upon obtaining consent, he found 14 pounds of cocaine and methamphetamine.


However, the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits search and seizure without a warrant or probable cause. That means Cruz-Zamora had to clearly consent to the search first. Yet the literal translation generated by Google Translate could be considered unclear. As a result, a Kansas court ruled that Cruz-Zamora couldn’t have clearly consented and granted his request for a Motion to Suppress evidence.


In 2020, another judge cited the 2018 decision in his ruling on a similar case, and agreed that Google Translate wasn’t sufficient for obtaining consent. This time, the judge didn’t grant the driver’s request to suppress the officer’s finding: a large package of opioid fentanyl.


That brings us to the most recent case involving Brenda Ramirez-Mendoza, a Spanish-speaking driver who was pulled over for speeding. This time, the mistranslation was captured by the officer’s body camera.


The Remote Interpreting Advantage


As you can see, Google Translate is not only insufficient for obtaining consent, but reliance on the app can change the course of a ruling. Yet waiting for an interpreter to arrive onsite is often impractical or even impossible, depending on the language needed. And that’s where remote legal interpreters come in.


Thanks to advances in technology, remote options such as video remote (VRI) and over-the-phone (OPI) interpreting are now accessible through a laptop or cell phone. With the Boostlingo interpretation platform, you can connect with a certified legal interpreter in minutes. All you need is an internet connection and a webcam for video calls. You can even use the Boostlingo app to request an interpreter through your smartphone or tablet.


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

Despite the increasing demand for interpreters, those who hire them typically know little about the profession. As a result, numerous misconceptions about training, requirements, and costs continue to spread. To dispel some of the misinformation, we’re tackling three of the most common myths about interpreting.


  1. Anyone who is bilingual can be an interpreter. While someone must be fluent in two or more languages to interpret, it’s only the first step. Professional interpreters typically complete a specialized interpretation program which includes a minimum of 40 hour of training on linguistics, best practices, and ethics. Medical interpreters and legal interpreters must also obtain federal and/or state certification and complete continuing education units to maintain it.


In addition to training, professional interpreters must adhere to a code of ethics and remain neutral. Asking an employee, friend, or family member to interpret can create a conflict of interest, and may be illegal in some situations.


  1. Interpreters and translators are interchangeable. The words “interpret” and “translate” are often used interchangeably. However, the two roles are very different. An interpreter translates orally from one language to another, while a translator translates the written word.


In some instances, an interpreter will need to review a short document and translate it orally. This is known as sight translation, which is a hybrid of translation and interpretation. However, sight translation isn’t appropriate for longer documents such as a patient’s bill of rights. When you have a longer document or need a copy in another language, you should hire a professional translator.


  1. Professional interpreters are too expensive. Depending on the specialization and language pair, an onsite interpreter can cost upwards of $100 per hour. For many organizations, the cost may make hiring someone seem out of reach. Yet the cost of not hiring a professional interpreter may be even greater. Interpreting mistakes—especially in the medical and legal fields—can lead to expensive, and sometimes catastrophic errors.


When budget constraints are an issue, remote options such as over-the-phone (OPI) and video remote (VRI) can serve as affordable alternatives to onsite interpreting. When you hire a remote interpreter, you’ll save time and money because you can connect with someone in minutes and forgo the transportation costs.


How Boostlingo Can Help


As you can see, professional interpreters—whether onsite or remote—play an essential role in communication and industry compliance. However, you may be unsure of how to find one that meets you needs. That’s where we come in.


With the Boostlingo interpretation platform, you can connect with an interpreter either over the phone or via video remote in minutes. All you need is an internet connection and a computer or tablet for video calls. Plus, you’ll get access to the Boostlingo Professional Interpreting Network (BPIN), which includes over 10,000 interpreters who speak over 200 languages.


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

As the 2022 Open Enrollment Period nears, health insurance providers are gearing up to assist millions of people who wish to enroll in affordable coverage. From November 1st to December 15th, U.S. citizens and legal residents will be eligible to purchase health insurance through the federal and state marketplaces. Yet a lack of access to language services often stands in the way of limited English proficiency (LEP) speakers from doing just that.


Bilingual Customer Service or Remote Interpreters?    


While information about Open Enrollment is available in multiple languages, this isn’t always enough. Why? Because navigating the U.S. health insurance system can be challenging—even for native English speakers. In fact, a 2019 Health Insurance Literacy survey found that 51% of respondents didn’t fully understand basic insurance terms. Now imagine how much more difficult choosing a plan must be for the 23% of marketplace plan enrollees who speak another language at home.


Fortunately, remote interpreters can bridge the language gap and help ensure everyone finds a health plan that fits their needs. While bilingual customer service representatives serve a vital role, they aren’t always available during peak hours. Nor is it realistic to hire enough staff for every language your customers may need. By connecting with a remote interpreter when necessary, you’ll reduce wait times, enroll more customers, and boost customer satisfaction.


Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI)


When it comes to customer service, over-the-phone (OPI) interpreting is the most accessible option. Anyone calling from a landline or a cell phone without a data plan can speak with an interpreter in minutes. It’s also the most efficient way to assist from a call center.


Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) 


Video remote interpreting (VRI) works well when you want to create a more personal connection. Health insurance agents who typically meet customers in person can use VRI to replicate an onsite meeting remotely. It’s also a great way to provide language services during a virtual session where attendees can ask questions and enroll in plans. And last but not least, it allows you to assist customers who use American Sign Language (ASL).


How Boostlingo Can Help


Now that you know the benefits of remote interpreting, it’s time to find a platform that meets your needs. With Boostlingo, you can connect with an interpreter in minutes—either over the phone or via video remote. All you need is internet access and a computer or tablet with a webcam for video calls. Plus, you’ll gain access to our Boostlingo Professional Interpreting Network (BPIN), which includes over 10,000 interpreters who speak over 200 languages.


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

Interpreters aren’t strangers to stress. From medical emergencies to police investigations, they frequently navigate emotionally charged situations. Even events such as business meetings or parent-teacher conferences can become contentious. However, remaining calm is only part of the equation. Interpreters need a high-degree of emotional intelligence (EQ) to ensure that they’re accurately conveying information between parties.


What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ?)  


Simply put, EQ is the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. For interpreters, that means evaluating tone of voice, hand gestures, body language, and facial expressions—in addition to language. And while this is true for many professions, interpreters face the additional challenge of evaluating this information within different cultural contexts. A smile, for example, often indicates friendliness in North America, but may be a sign of pain or embarrassment in some Asian societies.


EQ and the Challenges of Remote Interpreting


Correctly interpreting emotions takes practice regardless of the setting, but remote interpreting adds another layer of difficulty. The increasing popularity of over-the-phone (OPI) and video remote (VRI) interpreting, while convenient, does lead to the loss of nonverbal information. With OPI, you lose the ability to interpret body language and facial expressions. And although VRI allows parties to see each other, it’s still more difficult to build trust and understanding between speakers. That means interpreters need an even higher EQ to successfully interpret remotely.


How to Improve EQ in Interpreting


Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your EQ.


It all starts with self-awareness. As you interpret, be aware of which emotions come up during stressful sessions and take note of how you respond. This will help you improve your self-regulation, which is your ability to manage these emotions. Be aware that interpreters can and do experience vicarious trauma, so make sure you take steps to combat it when you feel overwhelmed.


Social awareness, or the ability to understand the emotions of others, is another essential component. Given how self-expression can vary across cultures, it’s important to develop a deep understanding of the behavioral norms among people who speak your target language. Reading literature in the language can help you boost EQ and give you deeper insight into the culture.


Lastly, improving your social skills can increase your EQ. While interpreters have always needed strong social skills, they’re especially important in remote settings because it’s easier to miss nonverbal cues. Practicing your intonation and tone, taking voice acting lessons, and interpreting video and audio, are just a few ways to strengthen your remote interpreting skills.


Have any other tips for improving EQ in interpreting? Let us know in the comments!

Did you know? September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month! Established in 1988, it commemorates the contributions, cultures, and heritage of Hispanic Americans. In honor of this occasion, we’re highlighting the works of influential Latin American interpreters and translators throughout history.


Marina “La Malinche” (c. 1500 – 1529)


A Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf coast, Marina served as an interpreter, advisor, and negotiator for the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. She was given to the Spanish by the Tabasco Indians, and would go on to play a vital role in the conquest of the Aztec Empire.


Born Malintzin, she was later baptized as a Catholic and named Marina. She also gave birth to Cortés’s first son, making her the symbolic mother of Mexico. To this day, she remains a controversial figure as both a victim of conquest and a traitor to her homeland.


Gaspar Antonio Chi (c. 1531 – 1610)


Also known as Gaspar Antonio de Herrera, Gaspar Antonio Chi was a Mayan noble and interpreter for King Charles V of Spain. He primarily interpreted between Spanish and Mayan languages, but also understood Latin.


During his sessions with Charles V, he recounted life under colonial rule and provided vital information about geography, the Mayan people, and cultures in the Yucatan. Chi also served as a primary source for Diego de Lana’s book Relacíon de las cosas Yucatan, which catalogued Mayan words, phrases, and hieroglyphics.


Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986)


Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentinian fiction writer, poet, essayist, and translator. He is best known for his short story collections, which helped introduce Argentinian literature and culture to the wider world.


A gifted translator, Borges translated “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde into Spanish when he was just nine years old. He went on to translate the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Franz Kafka, and Virginia Woolf, among other authors.


Gregory Rabassa (1922 – 2016)


Born to Cuban emigres in Yorkers, New York, Gregory Rabassa was a literary translator and university professor. He translated both Spanish and Portuguese literature into English.


Rabassa is best known for translating works by major Latin American novelists such as Julio Cortázar, José Amado, and Gabriel García Márquez—including his seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. He received a PEN Translation Prize in 1977 and the PEN/Ralph Manheim Translation Prize in 1982.


He also taught at Columbia University and Queens College in New York City for many years.


Are there any Hispanic linguists you’d like to celebrate this month? Let us know in the comments!

Did you know? September is Deaf Awareness Month! Launched in 1958 by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), the initiative celebrates the history, cultures, and communities of deaf people around the world. It corresponds with the International Week of Deaf People and the International Day of Sign Languages.


International Week of Deaf People 2021 (September 20th – 26th)


While the entire month is dedicated to recognizing deaf people and their contributions, the International Week of Deaf People is of particular importance. The week, which commemorates the first World Congress of the WDF, focuses on the triumphs of deaf people and the challenges they still face.


This year, events will be hosted worldwide from Monday, September 20th to Sunday, September 26th. Daily themes include:


  • Cherishing Deaf History – Monday, September 20th
  • Sustainable Deaf Leadership –Tuesday, September 21st
  • Sign Languages for All Deaf Learners – Wednesday, September 22nd
  • We Sign for Human Rights – Thursday, September 23rd (This is also International Day of Sign Languages).
  • Intersectional Deaf Communities – Friday, September 24th
  • Deaf Culture and Arts – Saturday, September 25th
  • Human Rights in Times of Crisis – Sunday, September 26th


All members of the worldwide deaf community are welcome to participate, including families of the deaf, sign language interpreters, and members of human rights and disability rights organizations.


How You Can Support Deaf Communities


If there are no events near you, there are still plenty of ways you can get involved and support your local deaf community. Below are just eight possibilities:


  1. Start learning sign language. (You can sign up for free lessons here).
  2. Share information about sign language families, including Black American and indigenous
  3. Follow Deaf YouTube creators and share their content on social media. Don’t forget to include #IWDP and #IDSL in your posts.
  4. Support deaf-owned businesses.
  5. Advocate for deaf accessibility in your community.
  6. Advocate for the use of Certified Deaf Interpreters at work or within your community.
  7. Volunteer at a nonprofit that assists the deaf or advocates for disability rights.
  8. Contact your representatives to advocate for the rights of deaf people.


Bonus: If you know someone who is deaf, ask them about their experiences. Simply being willing to listen and learn about the deaf experience can go a long way to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.

How are you planning to celebrate Deaf Awareness Month? Let us know in the comments!