Cafe Lingo

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!

Despite efforts to assist vulnerable Afghans during the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan, tens of thousands remain in danger. Those who assisted U.S. and NATO troops—including interpreters—are among the highest risk of being arrested or killed by the Taliban.


As part of our commitment to the interpreting community, we’ve compiled information on how interpreters and other refugees can resettle in the UK and how our readers can help them.


For U.S. resources, click here. For Canadian resources, click here.


Government Programs


Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy


Great Britain has announced plans to accept 5,000 Afghans during the first year of its Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP). The program, which will remain open indefinitely, offers relocation and other assistance to current and former Locally Employed Staff in Afghanistan.


Under this policy, any current or former Locally Employed Staff directly employed by HMG whose life is at risk can apply for ARAP. This is regardless of employment status, rank or role, or length of time served.


Eligible Afghans can apply through an online form, regardless of their current location—including Afghanistan.


Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme


The country also plans to accept up to 20,000 Afghan refugees in the long term under the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme. This scheme aims to resettle Afghan nationals who are most vulnerable, including women, girls, and religious minorities. The British government is urgently working to open this route and will announce further details once they’re available.


How You Can Help


If you’d like to help Afghans who are resettling in the UK, here are three organizations that are accepting donations and need volunteers.


Refugee Council


Founded in 1951, the Refugee Council works directly with refugees in the UK. The organization helps them integrate into their new communities, provides mental health services, and assists children who have arrived alone.


If you’d like to donate online, you can do so here. You can also host fundraising events or volunteer.




The volunteer-run charity Care4Calais works with refugees in the UK, France, and Belgium. It provides direct aid through donations of clothing, shoes, cell phones, and other essential items.


You can donate items at your nearest drop off location or purchase a welcome pack, which will be given to an Afghan refugee in need. If you’d like to volunteer, contact [email protected].


British Red Cross  


The British Red Cross, which is on the ground in all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces, is also collecting donations to assist Afghans who have relocated to the UK. Staff and volunteers are providing emotional support and essential items, including clothing, blankets, hygiene products, and baby supplies.


If you’d like to donate to, click here. You can also get involved by raising funds or by volunteering.


Remember, whether it’s donating, volunteering, or simply sharing this information, the smallest action can make a big difference!


As the situation remains fluid, we encourage you to leave information about any other legitimate organization in the comments. We will keep this article up-to-date as the humanitarian crisis unfolds.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has sent the country spiraling into a humanitarian crisis. Although at least 12,000 Afghans have been evacuated via the Kabul airport, tens of thousands of others remain in danger. Those who supported the United States and NATO troops—including interpreters—are at the highest risk of being arrested or killed.


As part of our commitment to the interpreting community, we’ve compiled information on how interpreters can apply for refugee status in Canada and how our readers can help them. For resources on U.S. visa programs and nonprofits, click here.


Special Programs for Afghan Interpreters and Other Refugees


The Canadian government has agreed to resettle up to 20,000 refugees through Special Programs. These include a special program for:


  • Afghan nationals and their families who assisted the Canadian government.
  • Afghan nationals who don’t have a durable solution in a third country, including
    • Women leaders
    • Human rights activists
    • LGBTI individuals
    • Journalists and people who assisted Canadian journalists
    • Immediate family members of one of the above
    • Extended family members of previously resettled interpreters who assisted the Canadian government.


To apply, write an email to [email protected] and include:


  • Your full name
  • Date of birth
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Description of work with the Canadian government including:
    • Your title or position
    • Identification number, if you have one
    • Name(s) of current Canadian point(s) of contact, if possible
  • Copy of your passport and passport for each eligible family member traveling with you, if possible


Please note: You don’t need to be in Afghanistan or return to Afghanistan to be eligible.


How You Can Help


If you’d like to help Afghans who are awaiting refugee status or have already arrived in Canada, here are three organizations that are accepting donations and need volunteers.

Veteran Transition Network is a veteran-led nonprofit organization that has set up an emergency fund to provide shelter and support for interpreters and their families. Donations go toward immediately helping Afghans by paying for interim housing and a living wage for those awaiting permission to enter Canada.


You can donate online, via check, or write transfer or security. If you’d like to volunteer, click here.


Afghan-Canadian Interpreters is an initiative made up of civilian volunteers, veterans, and serving members of the Canadian armed forces. It provides interpreters and their families with the expenses required for the relocation process.


You can send donations via e-transfer to [email protected] or via check. If you’d like to volunteer, email [email protected].


Islamic Relief Canada provides emergency aid in disaster zones which includes food packages and hygiene and water storage kits. The organization has been on the ground in Afghanistan for twenty years and is asking for donations to assist those who have been displaced.


You can donate online here. If you’d like to volunteer, click here.


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


Since the situation remains incredibly fluid, we encourage you to include any other legitimate, proven organization in the comments which may be of help. We will keep this article updated with information as the humanitarian crisis unfolds.

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


What Is VRS?


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


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


What Is VRI?


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


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


Advantages of VRI


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


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


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


VRI and Boostlingo  


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


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