Cafe Lingo

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! 

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!

Interpreting is a difficult profession. Professional interpreters must have strong listening, communication, and interpersonal skills, as well as a good memory. Furthermore, interpreters working in professions such as legal and medical must often undergo a specific certification program in order to fulfill state or federal criteria.

However, one sort of interpreting is more challenging than the others: simultaneous interpretation. Here’s a look at one of the most well-known—but least understood—types of interpretation, as well as the science underlying it.

What Does Simultaneous Interpretation Mean?

Simultaneous interpretation, as the name implies, is translating a speaker’s words as they speak. In contrast to sequential interpreting, which enables the speaker to complete before the interpreter translates the message into the target language, simultaneous interpreting allows the speaker to finish before the interpreter translates the message into the target language.

Simultaneous interpreting is commonly used at conferences and other events when speakers of various languages are present. (Think of the classic image of United Nations interpreters in glass booths.) While many simultaneous interpreters still work on-site, there are other opportunities for remote simultaneous interpreting.

Which Skills Do Simultaneous Interpreters Need? 

Simultaneous interpreters, unlike consecutive interpreters, have no margin for error. They don’t have time to ask a speaker to clarify their remarks or even take notes. To recreate the speaker’s message in the target language, students must depend largely on their short-term memory. (Consecutive interpreters employ both short- and long-term memory.)

Simultaneous interpreters listen in anticipation to what the following speaker will say. They utilize the meeting context to determine the message and translate it in real time. Because the interpreter has limited time to recollect less known vocabulary or phrases, a thorough comprehension of the subject is required.

Simultaneous Interpreting and the Brain

So, how does the mind of a simultaneous interpreter approach this difficult task? Despite the fact that neuroscientists have been studying language for decades, numerous questions surrounding simultaneous interpretation persist. Researchers believe it is partly due to a region of the brain known as Broca’s area. This area is well-known for its function in language creation as well as working memory.

The brains of multilinguals were studied using an fMRI by researchers at the University of Geneva. They recorded when someone listened to a sentence, repeated a sentence, or listened to a sentence in one language and translated it into another. The researchers discovered that Broca’s area was active similarly for all three activities. During the interpretation test, however, the caudate nucleus, the portion of the brain responsible for learning and decision-making skills, became more active.

Finally, neuroscientists think that interpretation is controlled by no single portion of the brain. This incredible talent is most likely the result of networks spanning several areas of the brain.

Given the needed brain processing power, simultaneous interpreters usually work in 30-minute shifts to give each other a rest. And given how difficult the work is, they certainly deserve it!

Over 25 million U.S. residents speak English “less than very well.” Yet healthcare providers still fall short when it comes to providing language assistance for those who need it. This lack of language support can leave limited English proficiency (LEP) patients and caregivers struggling to navigate the healthcare system. Delays in care, fewer referrals to specialists, and less diagnostic testing are just a few of the consequences.


Fortunately, video remote and over-the-phone medical interpreting services go a long way when it comes to guiding LEP speakers though the healthcare process. Here’s a look at the challenges they face from booking an appointment to understanding treatment options, and how medical interpreters can help.


Language Barriers in the Healthcare System


While communication issues may arise during a medical exam, they often occur as soon as someone calls to book an appointment. During an Academic Pediatrics study, Spanish speaking caregivers reported that they had trouble when they called the facility. Those who made an appointment faced additional obstacles when it came to registration and communicating with office staff.


Once they met with the healthcare provider, some respondents reported that they struggled to understand the diagnosis, treatment options, and follow-up care recommendations. Some simply nodded as if they understood, even when they didn’t. Others relied on their child or other family member to interpret—a practice that medical professionals discourage. Unfortunately, the lack of bilingual staff and/or access to a medical interpreter left some respondents with no other options.


How Remote Medical Interpreters Can Help


Bilingual staff are always a great addition to a medical practice. However, they typically aren’t trained to provide interpreting services. That’s where medical interpreters come in.


Although hiring an onsite medical interpreter is often ideal, it may not always be possible or even necessary. For example, if no bilingual staff member is available, you can help a patient schedule an appointment by connecting with an over-the-phone interpreter. The same is true when patients need assistance with registration.


Video remote interpreting, on the other hand, works well during telehealth appointments and onsite visits. Medical interpreters can glean information from a patient’s facial expressions and body language to ensure there is no miscommunication between them and the provider.


Both options allow you to connect with a medical interpreter within minutes, which reduces wait times and can improve care outcomes.


Connecting with BoostCare Telehealth  


With BoostCare Telehealth, you can quickly connect with medical interpreters who speak over 200 languages. Our HIPAA-compliant platform is easy to use for patients and healthcare providers alike. All you need is an internet connection and a device with a webcam to get started.


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


American Sign Language (ASL) is the most widely used sign language in the world. While its roots can be traced back to 18th century France, sign languages existed in the Americas well before the arrival of Europeans. Native American tribes relied on Indigenous Sign Language (ISL) to facilitate inter-tribal communication—in addition to communicating with deaf members. Today, most deaf Native Americans and their families use ASL, but a small number still understand ISL, and they’re working to keep these dialects alive.


Here’s a look at three ISL dialects from the past and present.


Plateau Sign Language


Plateau Sign Language was used across the Columbian Plateau in the present-day U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Primarily used by the Salish people, the language went extinct in the 18th century.


Inuit Sign Language


Inuit Sign Language is used within Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic. As of 2000, 47 of the 155 deaf tribe members used the language in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. While the language doesn’t have legal protection under federal law, it has been used alongside ASL in the Nunavut legislature since 2008.


Plains Sign Language


Plains Sign Language (PSL) has the largest number of users on our list. Once the lingua franca of present-day Central Canada, central and western parts of the United States, and Northern Mexico, it had over 110,000 users in 1885. It was used across at least 37 tribes, and remains strong among the Crow, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Dialects of PSL include: Navajo, Blackfoot, Cree, and Ojibwa.


Also known as Plains Sign Talk, PSL is the most sophisticated indigenous sign language known. It’s recognized in the official courts, education, and legislative assembly of Ontario, Canada.


Preserving Indigenous Sign Languages


Indigenous sign languages, along with many indigenous spoken languages, are endangered. However, activists such as Nikki Sellars of the Xat’sull First Nation have been working to preserve ISL and improve protections under Canadian law. According to activists, integrating ISL into the curriculum at Native American schools for the deaf will be vital for keeping these languages alive.


Language Support and Boostlingo 


Although our Boostlingo Professional Interpreters Network (BPIN) doesn’t include ISL interpreters, we provide support for ASL and spoken languages such as Navajo, Mixteco, and Quechua. Our platform includes video remote interpreting options for ASL users and over-the-phone interpreting for languages of lesser diffusion, such as the ones listed above.


Want to learn more about how Boostlingo can provide the language support you need? Contact us today to start your free trial!


COVID-19 has exposed a long-standing issue within the U.S. healthcare system: lack of access to language services for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). As hospitals struggled to manage rising caseloads, LEP patients risked missing out on life saving care due to language barriers. Yet the shortage of medical interpreters and translators began well before the pandemic.


According to a 2016 survey by the American Hospital Association, only 56% of hospitals offered linguistic and translation services—up from 54% in 2011. To put this into perspective, a 2010 study found that 97% of doctors have non-English speaking patients. That gap between patients’ needs and the availability of language services can prevent them from receiving appropriate treatments or even seeking care at all.


Federal Funding and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act


However, the need for medical interpreters and translators is well known among healthcare professionals. Organizations that receive financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must provide access to language services under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Recipients of this assistance include:


  • Healthcare providers that participate in CHIP and Medicaid programs
  • Hospitals and nursing homes (recipients under Medicare Part A)
  • Medicare Advantage plans (e.g. HMOs and PPOs)
  • Human or social service agencies
  • Insurers that participate in Marketplaces and receive premium tax credits


So, why do so many healthcare organizations fall short? The answer lies in insurance reimbursement.


Interpreting Services and Healthcare Reimbursement


Despite federal assistance, few insurers directly reimburse for interpreter services. Aside from some Medicaid plans, healthcare providers typically pay the costs—ranging from $30 to $400 per patient. Meanwhile, Medicaid programs pay only $30 to $50 per patient, which means providers often lose money by treating LEP patients. Unsurprisingly, 25% of clinicians considered interpreting costs a barrier to care. And as revenue falls due to COVID-19, more providers may consider cutting interpretation services as a cost-saving measure.


Telehealth and More Affordable Interpreting


Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad. Due to the pandemic, the HHS has expanded access to telehealth to keep patients and healthcare professionals safe. Using a platform like BoostCare Telehealth, healthcare providers can connect with remote medical interpreters who charge lower rates than onsite interpreters.


Our video remote and over-the-phone (OTP) interpreting options give you access to interpreters who speak over 200 languages within minutes—without the travel expenses. You can easily treat patients via telehealth or onsite without waiting for an interpreter to arrive. All you need is internet access and a mobile device or computer with a webcam.


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


Anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir wrote in 1929 that, “In the state of California alone, there are greater and more numerous linguistics extremes than can be illustrated in all the length and breadth of Europe.” You could even narrow that down to Northern California—or just San Francisco, where 112 languages are spoken. And while each of these languages has a unique history and culture, let’s take a look at the five most widely spoken ones in NorCal.


  1. Spanish


It should come as no surprise that Spanish takes the number one spot. With over 10.6 million speakers state-wide[i], 28.5% of the Golden State’s population communicates in Spanish. In Northern California, the agricultural countries of the San Joaquin Valley and the San Fernando Valley are home to the majority[ii].


  1. Chinese (Including Cantonese and Mandarin)


Chinese speakers make up 2.8% of the state’s population, with over 1.2 million speakers state-wide.1 Most Chinese speaking NorCal residents live in the Bay area—primarily in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties.2


  1. Tagalog


An estimated 2.2% of California residents speak Tagalog, a language native to the Philippines. The majority of the roughly 796,000 speakers live in Southern California, but the San Francisco Bay area also boasts a thriving community.2


  1. Vietnamese


Did you know San Jose is home to the largest percentage of Vietnamese speakers outside of Vietnam? With around 559,000 residents, Vietnamese speakers make up 1.43% of California’s population, most of whom live in Northern California.2


  1. Korean


Korean rounds out the top 5 languages with around 368,000 speakers state-wide. Korean speakers make up about 1.08% of California’s population. The largest communities are in Orange and Los Angeles counties, but about 1.3% of San Jose residents and 1.1% of San Francisco residents identify as Korean.[iii]


Honorable Mention


Persian, Japanese, Russian, and Armenian round out the top 10 most commonly spoken languages (along with English) in NorCal. The first three are primarily spoken in the Bay area, while Fresno is home to a large Armenian community.


A Note on Native American Languages

Although the state’s pre-colonial indigenous communities spoke over 80 different languages, the vast majority are now either extinct or severely endangered. Languages such as Karuk, Hupa, and Yurok, which were once common in Northern California, now only have about a dozen speakers.[iv] Chukchansi and Luiseño are also native to the region, and languages from larger groupings such as Athabascan, Algic, and Uto-Aztecan are spoken in small numbers. The San Francisco area has a small number of Navajo speakers as well.


Yet despite the shrinking number of speakers, organizations such as Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival are working to keep these languages alive through education and community building.


Language Support from Boostlingo


As you can see, Northern California’s linguistic diversity spans across urban, suburban, and rural areas of the region. While each of these communities add to the state’s unique culture, language differences can also pose barriers to communication.


Fortunately, Boostlingo makes it easy to access interpreters for over 200 languages. Our interpretation platform let’s you schedule an onsite interpreter or connect with an over-the-phone or video remote interpreter in minutes.


Want to learn more about how Boostlingo works? Start your free trial today!








If you or a loved one has ever had a medical emergency, your first reaction was likely to dial 911. Now imagine you didn’t speak English. What would happen then? Ideally, the operator would quickly connect you with a 911 interpreter.


These specialized medical interpreters must remain calm in even the most stressful situations. In this blog post, we shine the spotlight on these sometimes-forgotten interpreters and the vital work they do.


What It Takes to Become a Boostlingo 911 Interpreter


First things first. Medical interpreters who join the Boostlingo Professional Interpreters Network (BPIN) are not employees, but are independent contractors. Yet that doesn’t mean we don’t require them to meet strict requirements before accepting emergency assignments.


Below is a partial list of our medical interpreter requirements:


  • A minimum of 60 hours of medical interpreter training.
  • A minimum of 3 years of medical interpreting experience.
  • Completion of required CEUs.
  • Evidence of current HIPAA compliance (must be updated every 2 years).


Given the sensitive nature of emergency calls, we also ask our interpreters to follow a strict code of ethics for the calling environment. It must comply with HIPAA regulations for security and privacy, i.e. no answering calls in public places or in a room where others are present.


How 911 Interpreting Works


When someone places an emergency call, it’s routed to the requested language and type. An interpreter will answer 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?”


All interpreters who accept these calls are prepared to take them.


Meet Our BPIN Interpreters


The 911 interpreters who join our network have varied backgrounds, but all of them are well trained and meet requirements above. Here’s a brief introduction for just two of them:


Andrea Lane, a Portuguese-English interpreter based in San Diego has a degree in nutrition and previously worked in a hospital. Now, she not only interpreters 911 calls, but provides legal interpreting for government agencies and immigration.


Andres Wallace, a Spanish-English interpreter based in Costa Rica, studied translation before becoming a medical interpreter. Throughout his seven years of experience, he’s taken 911 calls due to domestic violence, stabbings, shootings, and motor vehicle accidents.



During our interview, he recalled a harrowing incident that involved a collision with a heavy motor vehicle. A passenger had fallen unconscious, and Andres had to walk the driver through removing the passenger, ensuring they were still breathing, and interpreting for the EMTs.


Both interpreters emphasized the importance of remaining calm and adhering to the code of ethics they’ve sworn to follow, regardless of the scenario.


Partnering with Boostlingo


As you can see, our 911 interpreters undergo a rigorous training process, and must sometimes interpret during life or death situations. Because of this, our BPIN interpreters are some of the best in the industry.


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


Interpreters, along with professionals such as teachers, singers, and call center operators work with their voices which means that an interpreter’s voice is their most important instrument, and, like any other tool of the trade, should be maintained and protected. In this article, we’ll look at some ways of protecting our voice – from keeping hydrated to learning breathing techniques. 


Don’t whisper… 

Chuchotage, also known as whispered simultaneous interpreting, involves performing simultaneous interpretation in a quiet voice while sitting or standing next to the party or parties one is interpreting for. Despite what the name implies, you are not actually supposed to whisper. According to one research study, for some people, whispering may be overworking your larynx. One of the reasons for this is that people often strain their voice while whispering and trying to be heard, which may be as taxing on your voice as shouting! 


… and don’t scream 

Speaking of shouting, speaking in a loud voice, such as when you are trying to speak over a loud voice or project your voice when speaking at a public event, can put a strain on your vocal cords. If you need to be heard by many people at once, consider using a microphone. If you are speaking on the phone or in a video meeting, find a good headset which allows you to be heard without straining your voice. 


Take regular breaks 

If you spend most of the day speaking, take a vocal nap – that is, take intentional breaks from using your voice and allow it to rest for a short period of time. When your voice is hoarse due to a cold or overuse, avoid speaking to allow your voice to recover. And iIn addition to resting your voice by avoiding speaking and singing, remember to rest your whole body – overall fatigue can also adversely affect your voice


Don’t get dry 

Staying hydrated is always a good idea – and having a good water balance is also a good way to take care of your vocal cords. In addition, consider placing a humidifier in your home and/or office. Having a humidifier can be especially helpful as we head into colder months, when heating can make the inside air particularly dry. Humidifying the air can help prevent things like having a dry mouth and needing to cough or clear your throat, which can be stressful for your vocal cords. 


Support your voice with breathing 

Taking a leaf out of singers’ books and learning breathing exercises and proper breathing techniques can help interpreters have more control over their voice. This can be especially helpful now, when many of us are straining to be heard through masks and at a distance of 6 feet. This article goes over some basic vocal techniques and voice control methods, while this video shows some easy exercises for beginners – give it a try! 


We hope these tips will help your voice stay in top shape so that you can keep doing what you love! 


Navigating the 2020 election season is a challenge. From extended registration deadlines to early voting to mail-in options, it’s hard to keep up with the changes due to COVID-19. That’s why we’re extending our video remote interpreting (VRI) hours to ensure voters have access to the information they need—regardless of their language.


Why Interpreters Matter  


Interpreters help make voting accessible. Limited English Proficiency (LEP) speakers and deaf individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) rely on interpreters to assist them with the process. Below are just three reasons why someone may need an interpreter:


Voter Registration


Voter registration rules vary by state. The way you register, the documents you need, and the deadlines all depend on where you live. These rules can be confusing for U.S. natives, but pose an ever hurdle for immigrants who are eligible to vote. Someone from a country with a different system may need an interpreter to walk them through the process. And don’t forget about deaf and voters who rely on ASL and may need assistance.




While ballots are typically translated into multiple languages, it isn’t always enough. People often have questions about what’s on the ballot. Voting on a proposition or an amendment may be new for LEP voters, and they may need an interpreter to explain that portion.


Older voters and those with vision problems may struggle to read what’s on it and need someone to read it to them. Other voters may have limited reading skills. While others still may not even get a ballot in their native language. An interpreter can help by walking them through what’s on it.




Like voter registration, the way you vote depends on where you live. Some states rely on electronic voting machines while others use paper ballots. Since ballots must be filled out and submitted properly, voters may need help following the instructions. Interpreters can help LEP and deaf voters by relaying those instructions and answering any questions they have.


The Advantage of VRI


While onsite interpreting is often the best option, VRI has its advantages. Firstly, it allows for social distancing. Voters who need assistance can access an interpreter without putting themselves—or the interpreter at risk for COVID. Secondly, interpreters are available on request for many languages. While some districts hire interpreters in advance, that isn’t the case everywhere. And finally, voters who speak a less common language can access an interpreter regardless of where they live. An LEP voter who lives in a small town or rural area won’t need to wait for an interpreter who lives several hours away.


Requesting an Interpreter


Fortunately, the Boostlingo platform makes it easy to connect with an interpreter via remote video. All you need is an internet connection and a computer or mobile device with a webcam to get started. Our Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network (BPIN) supports over 200 languages—many of which are available on-demand. For a complete list as of October 2020, click here.


Want to learn more about how Boostlingo can help out this election season? Contact us today!