Friday, February 26, 2010

Does It Matter If an Interpreter Is Male or Female?

Here at In Every Language, we try to take gender into account when assigning interpreters for patients who speak Arabic. As one of our interpreters explains in this video (sorry in advance for the low audio quality), it truly does make a difference.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Part Six: How Do I Monitor an Agency’s Performance?

(Back to Part 5.)

There are a number of ways to monitor an agency’s performance. One is to track requests filled, requests returned, no-show and late arrival rates, billing error rates, complaints from providers, responsiveness, resolution of problems, and reoccurrence of problems. This data can usually be tracked electronically on a routine basis with a minimum of effort.

Another way is to actively solicit feedback from your front-desk and provider staff about the agency, either through routine feedback or periodic surveys. How easy is it to order an interpreter? How often do the interpreters arrive late? Are the interpreters polite? Do they engage in appropriate protocols? Do staff members have any reason to comment on the quality of the interpretation? While actively requesting feedback from the people who are using the agency on a daily basis is more cumbersome than electronic tracking, it is the best way of monitoring how the agency is doing.

Source: Roat, Cynthia E. “How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies.” Los Angeles: The California Endowment, February 2003.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Part Five: How Do I Use an Agency?

(Back to Part 4.)

A few words on working with agencies: each agency will be a bit different in how it does business. How organized you are internally, however, will have a large affect on how smoothly the collaboration goes.

First of all, make sure your internal systems are in place. It should be clear to employees when the need for an interpreter should be noted, who is responsible for ordering the interpreter and how that is to be done. In addition, staff should know who has the responsibility to cancel the interpreter if the patient cancels, whose responsibility it is to sign the interpreter in and out if you require signed encounter forms, and whose responsibility it is to dismiss the interpreter if the patient does not show up. While doing all this by phone may be easier, doing all transactions by fax will leave a paper trail that may be important in case of disputes.

When you order the interpreter, you should be able to provide the patient’s name and some sort of identification number, the provider’s name and the date, time and location of the appointment. Also, be sure you know about how long you’ll need the interpreter; it is very expensive to overbook an interpreter’s time since you are paying by the hour, however it is also nonproductive to underbook an interpreter who then may need to leave for another appointment before the first one is completed. Additional information that is helpful for the interpreter to know is the patient’s gender and age, as this gives the interpreter important clues as to how the patient should be addressed. Finally, any information you can give the agency as to the nature of the appointment will allow the interpreter to come better prepared.

The most important part in working with an agency is clear communication. If you have a concern or complaint, a quality agency will want to know about it. The agency becomes part of your language access team, so the better the teamwork, the more effective your interpreter service.

Source: Roat, Cynthia E. “How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies.” Los Angeles: The California Endowment, February 2003.

(Go to Part 6.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Part Four: How Do I Choose the Best Language Agency to Serve my Institution?

(Back to Part 3.)

When you contact a prospective language agency, you will want to inquire about a wide range of issues in order to gauge the likely quality of the services.

Quality of interpreting
How does the agency recruit interpreters/translators?
The most successful agencies recruit interpreters on an ongoing basis from a wide
range of sources. They will maintain close on-going relationships with the
immigrant and refugee communities from which interpreters may come, as well as
with professional interpreter organizations and training programs. Agencies which
are vague about how they recruit may have difficulty filling your needs long term.

How does the agency screen interpreter candidates?
Different agencies will have different minimum requirements for interpreters.
While there is some debate whether it is necessary (or even possible) to require that all interpreters have a college degree, all interpreters should certainly be screened for their language skills in both active languages. Screening techniques range from an informal conversation to standardized testing, so ask specifically about how screening is done. As is often the case, standards for common language interpreters (like Spanish) are likely to be higher than standards for interpreters of “hard-to-find” languages.

Does the agency require interpreters to have received professional training in

As few health and human service interpreters come with degrees in interpretation,
it is very important that interpreters receive some form of professional training as
interpreters. Does the agency require training? If so, how many hours? Trainings
can run from four hours to over 200. Obviously, the longer the training, the better,
but 40 hours is a common length for basic training programs. What does the
training cover? Ask to see the curriculum. The course should, at a minimum, cover
the interpreter role, ethics, modes, basic conversion skills, handling the flow of the session, intervening and medical terminology. The more participatory the course,
the more skill building and practice included, the more effective the course will be. Ask also about the credentials of the trainer. The impact of a course often depends on who is teaching.

Does the agency require any continuing education of its contractors? If so, how much and what sort of proof do the contract interpreters have to offer?
Continuing education is important and reasonable to expect of interpreters who
provide services regularly. The California Healthcare Interpreter Association (CHIA)
has chapters in the Bay Area, the Los Angeles area, the Central Valley and the
Sacramento area that may provide continuing education for health care interpreters.

What percentage of the agency’s interpreters is certified?
It is useful to know how many certified interpreters the agency has in each language; however, true certification programs are rare. At the time of this writing, there is no publicly available certification process for health care interpreters in California. However, there are several other forms of interpreter certification of which you should be aware.

The Federal Court system certifies interpreters in Spanish, Haitian Creole and Navajo. The California Personnel Board also certifies court interpreters in Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Tagalog and Vietnamese. There is a “Medical Interpreter” certification for legal interpreters providing services for Workers Compensation exams, but this test is not designed to certify clinical interpreters and is offered only in Spanish.

Language Line Services (LLS), a for-profit telephonic interpreting agency, has developed a valid internal certification process, which at this time is available only to LLS interpreters.

American Sign Language interpreters may be certified by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) or the Registry for Interpreters of the Deaf (RID), with a variety of special certificates for particular venues. The two organizations have also formed a joint task force, the National Council on Interpreting which is developing a new, joint certification process.

The American Translators Association (ATA) accredits translators into English from Arabic, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish; and from English into Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The Department of Social and Health Services of the State of Washington also has a certification program for health care interpreters who speak Spanish, Russian, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese. The state also offers a “qualification” test to interpreters of other languages. Especially with telephonic providers, you may find interpreters in their pools who are certified through this process.

If an agency tells you that all its interpreters are certified, ask who has certified them. If the certification is internal to the agency, ask to see the reliability and validity data to make sure that it is truly a certification test and not simply an assessment. Obviously, you would like to see more certified interpreters than not in an agency’s interpreter pool. However, if it appears that few of the agency’s interpreters are certified, take a careful look before assuming that interpreter quality will be poor. It may be that the agency provides services largely in uncertifiable languages, or that training is being used in lieu of certification to guarantee quality.

What Code of Ethics are the interpreters/translators asked to follow?
At present, there is no one code of ethics for health care interpreters that is
nationally accepted, although California Healthcare Interpreters Association
(CHIA) has recently published a draft code of ethics8 and the National Council on
Interpreting in Health Care is currently working to build national consensus
around a single code of ethics. As a result, at this time each agency may have its
own code. Ask to see it, and ask how interpreters/translators are instructed about
it. If the code is simply mailed to interpreters, it will be doubtful that they will
really understand it.

What protocols are interpreters expected to use?
Are the interpreters expected to use first person interpreting, that is to say “I have a stomach ache” instead of “The patient says she has a stomach ache”? Are they
expected to do a pre-session with the patient and provider to clarify their role and
how they will interpret? Do they provide culture-related information if
communication has broken down due to cultural reasons? Will they advocate if
necessary? How are in-person interpreters told to dress and present themselves?
How are the interpreters instructed to handle difficult situations? Many agencies
will have an orientation apart from formal training to teach interpreters the
accepted protocols of that particular agency. Ask to see any instructional materials
that are given out and make sure the protocols are in keeping with professional
practice and your internal guidelines.

How does the agency provide long-term quality assurance for interpretation?
After the interpreters start to provide services, is there any mechanism in place to see how they are doing? Are interpreters periodically monitored in any way? Or will the agency rely on complaints from you as a quality assurance technique?

What mechanisms does the agency have to instruct interpreters about specific policies and procedures of your institution?
How does the agency communicate with its interpreters? Is there a newsletter,
monthly meetings, a Listserv? As you work together, it will certainly be necessary
for the agency to communicate details to interpreters about working at your
institution, whether there has been a change in parking designations or there are
new instructions on getting encounter forms signed. Make sure the agency has
some structured way of contacting its interpreter pool.

Does the agency specialize in any particular industry(ies)?
Some agencies serve all venues: legal, medical, insurance, social service, financial, customer service, educational, etc. Others will specialize in only one or two industries. While a more focused agency will not necessarily give better service, it is easier for interpreters to interpret effectively in fewer venues, simply because this requires a smaller range of specialized vocabulary and protocols. Some large agencies may have different cadres of interpreters to serve different venues, or may provide assistance with vocabulary development to interpreters who serve multiple venues. If the agency serves a wide range of venues, you might want to ask specifically how the agency guarantees quality across so many different situations.

Interpreter service

Available languages
You will want to ask the agency about the depth and breadth of its interpreter pool.
How many interpreters does it have actively available on a daily basis? How many
in each language? How many are really qualified? Some agencies seem to have an
awfully long list of “available languages,” making one wonder if those interpreters
would really be available if and when you needed them.

To evaluate what you learn about the agency’s capacity, you will need to know your organization’s language needs, both by language and by demand. What are your top five languages? Which language requests have you found especially difficult to fill? Some agencies specialize in certain language groups: Spanish only, Asian languages only, “hard to find” languages only, ASL only. Instead of expecting one agency to cover all your language needs, it may be better to have multiple contracts with various agencies, and use each for the service in which it specializes.

Back-up alliances
Some agencies have agreements with other agencies to back each other up if one
agency cannot cover a request. While this practice will certainly expand the
agency’s capacity, you will want to make sure that the allied agencies maintain the
same standards that you would expect from the contracted agency.

What percentage of all requests is the agency able to fill? This data the agency
should be tracking and should be willing to share. Remember that no agency can
fill 100 percent of requests.

No-show rates
How often do this agency’s in-person interpreters fail to show at appointments? As
with response rates, the agency should track this and be willing to share the data.

Connect times (for telephonic interpreter services)
What is the average connect time? Connect times of 45 seconds or less are
competitive; more than that is questionable. Also, ask how connect times are
calculated. They should be counted from when the call starts to ring at the agency
until an interpreter is on the line. You also might want to ask about connect times
on your most common languages. Since it may well take longer to get an interpreter
in a rare language than in a common one, chances are that connect times for
Spanish will be less than the average.

Special equipment requirements (for telephonic interpreter services)
Many telephonic interpreter services will be able to recommend specific speaker
phone technologies. A few require particular equipment in order to provide their
service. Since additional technology will certainly add to cost while potentially
improving quality, it is important to hear what technology upgrades you may need
to work with each agency.

Disaster recovery system (for telephonic interpreter services)
If there were to be some sort of national disaster, access to telephonic interpreters would become more important than ever. Or, if there were a local disaster near your agency’s call center, communications might be interrupted. Since your agency depends entirely on phone lines and computerized switching systems, what plan is in place if the lines go down? Some telephonic interpreting agencies now have completely redundant communication systems, allowing them to easily switch
systems if one technology fails. It is especially important to ask about disaster
recovery systems if you are contemplating using a telephonic service as the sole
provider of your interpreter services.

Switching equipment (for telephonic interpreter services)
For those with experience with call centers and telecommunications, information
on the agency’s switching system can tell you a great deal about how prepared it
will be to handle a large volume of calls, track connectivity statistics and provide
accurate billing and reporting.

What additional services are offered?
As mentioned above, some agencies offer ancillary support services that may be of
use to you. The more services they offer, the more of a partner they can become.

Of course you will want to ask about fees. In-person interpreter services are usually charged by the hour, with a one-hour minimum, although this may vary based on location. Telephonic interpreter services are usually charged by the minute. Fees
may vary based on language or by the time of day of the service. In addition, there
may also be a one-time set-up fee, a monthly minimum, volume discounts and
cancellation fees. Make sure you know all the fees before you sign up.

Cancellation policies
What is the agency’s cancellation policy? If you cancel a request for an interpreter, will you be charged? Most agencies will not charge if the cancellation is more than 24 hours before the appointment. Some agencies will charge, as they feel it only fair to pay the interpreter whose time has been reserved and who may not be able to get another appointment to replace the cancelled one. Same-day cancellations are almost always charged.

Company history
Learn as much as you can about the people at the agency. Who started it? What
was the founder doing beforehand? Does the founder have previous experience in
the language field? How long has the agency been in business? How quickly has it
grown? Who are the key players at the agency and what are their backgrounds?
These questions can give you a feel for the people behind the logo: the people with
whom you will be dealing, and the people whom you will need to trust in order to
build a working business relationship.

Industry involvement
Is the agency at all involved in helping to build the health care interpreting field? Is the agency a member of CHIA, of the American Translators Association (ATA), of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC)? Does the
agency provide scholarships for interpreters to get training, or support local
training efforts? Agencies that are supportive of the field are demonstrating
commitment to quality interpreting that may be reflected in their services.

Key documents
Ask to see a standard contract and an example of a billing statement. If you are
going to need specific data on your bill that is not routinely provided, bring that up in negotiations to assure that the agency has the capacity to track that data.

Finally, after you have asked all your questions and reviewed all the materials provided to you, ask for references. While it is not appropriate to request a complete client list, agencies should be able to put you in contact with a few current clients. When you talk to the references, ask for specific information as opposed to general impressions.

If you are contracting for telephonic interpreter services, your last step is to request a test call. This means that the agency allows you to put through one interpreter request free of charge in order to test how the service works. You may want to try an uncommon language to see if the agency can really come through, or you may want to request your most commonly needed language, to see how the agency will respond in the situation for which you will most use it.
Either way, a test call can be most revealing and will give you a good feel as to how the agency will really function.

Choosing an agency (or agencies) may seem rather complicated, however a quality agency will be your best partner in meeting your language needs. Having to recontract with new agencies because the old ones didn’t work out is a major investment of effort. It’s worth the time up front to choose an agency that can serve your needs well so that you can both get about the business of providing language access.

Source: Roat, Cynthia E. “How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies.” Los Angeles: The California Endowment, February 2003.

(Go to Part 5.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Part Three: How Can a Language Agency Help Me?

(Back to Part 2.) 

How can a language agency best serve your organization? The answer will depend on the level of demand, your internal resources, the language mix of your patient population, and the capacity of the agencies at your disposal. Most health care and social service institutions use a combination of resources to meet language access needs. Language agencies can be integrated into your language access service in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of your institution.

Auxiliary support for overextended staff and/or contract interpreters
Institutions with in-house staff interpreters, contract interpreters, and trained bilingual staff who interpret, will often call an agency as an auxiliary resource when other (usually less costly) resources are not available. Even if you have three full-time Spanish interpreters on staff, you will need some additional help when seven Spanish-speaking patients all book appointments for 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Or you may have interpreters available only between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and need some help covering the occasional emergency at night. The right agency can fill this need on an ad-hoc basis without your incurring the cost of hiring more staff.

Primary source of interpreters of languages of low demand
Some organizations use agencies primarily to provide interpreters for those languages that they only need occasionally. Even with a full complement of staff interpreters, contracted interpreters and bilingual providers, you may not have anyone who speaks Ibo, Chamorro or Kurdish. Languages such as Khmer, Korean, or Cantonese may be more commonly spoken among your patient population, but you still may not have a large enough demand to warrant contracting or hiring a staff person. Agencies are more likely to have interpreters of languages of limited diffusion.
Also, because agencies generally serve many institutions, they may be able to keep such interpreters busy enough that they seek training and gain sufficient experience to become skilled interpreters.

Substitute for an internal interpreter service
Some institutions find it simpler to outsource all of their language assistance needs; they use the agency as a substitute for an internal interpreter department. In these cases, anyone in the institution who needs an interpreter simply calls the agency directly. This obviates the need for an interpreter service department or complicated decision trees of whom staff should call with language needs.

Source: Roat, Cynthia E. “How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies.” Los Angeles: The California Endowment, February 2003.

(Go to Part 4.)

Part 2: What Can I Expect From a Language Agency?

(Back to Part 1.)


Just as in any business relationship, you should be able to trust an agency’s integrity. This is a fast-growing industry in some parts of the state and the nation, and there is little oversight. Because of fierce competition, high expectations by users and a lack of national standards in the field, it seems that some agencies stretch the truth a little – or a lot – in representing their services. When you approach an agency (or one approaches you) about providing services to you, don’t be afraid to ask questions and require verification of the answers. Agencies that are serious about providing a quality service will be willing to share this information.

Quality interpreting
The most important expectation you should have of a language agency is quality interpreting. After all, this is the product it is selling. Interpreters should be carefully screened and should have professional training. An agency should be willing to guarantee the quality of the language services being sold. When the agency cannot provide an interpreter whose skills it can stand behind, it should advise you before accepting the assignment and tell you the qualifications of the person it can provide. Especially with languages of limited diffusion, it may be that an untrained bilingual is the best you can hope for, but you should know that before the interpreter arrives.

High quality customer service
A language agency, like any business, should be able to provide good customer service to you, the client. Some aspects of good customer service include:
Polite and efficient call center staff
When you call the agency, whoever answers the phone should be courteous,
efficient and knowledgeable.
Ability to meet your demand for interpreters
The agency should be able to fill most of the appointments you assign, except in
languages that it told you at the time of contract that it could not provide. A
response rate over 85 percent is acceptable for some, but many agencies have
internal benchmarks of 95 percent or higher. Telephonic availability rates will
likely be higher than in-person rates, and the rates for “hard to find” languages will likely be lower. Remember that no agency will be able to fill your requests 100
percent of the time.
Low cancellation rates
If an agency commits to sending an interpreter, you should be able to expect that
it will send one. Calling you back to say that an interpreter could not be provided
for an appointment that was already accepted should be a very rare occurrence.
Low no-show or late arrival rates
When the agency commits to sending an interpreter, the interpreter should actually arrive — and arrive on time. Again, there will always be occasional no-shows
or late arrivals, but this should be the exception.
Acceptable emergency response time
If you call an agency for a walk-in patient, the agency should be able to get you an
interpreter within an hour (depending on the location of the appointment and the interpreter and the language). Many agencies, even those that do not routinely offer telephonic interpreting, will offer an interpreter over the phone in emergency
situations that require an interpreter immediately.
If you request it, an agency should be willing to train your staff on how to use the
agency’s services, and perhaps even on how to use an interpreter if the agency is the sole provider of language services in the system.
Rational scheduling of interpreters
It is reasonable to expect that the agency will not overbook its in-person
interpreters so that the interpreter must leave in the middle of an appointment. If
the appointment runs over because the clinic is running behind, or if more services
are required than were originally requested, the interpreter and the agency should
not be penalized if the interpreter has to leave. If this becomes a pattern, it would be wise to negotiate a solution with the agency.
Rapid connect rates
For telephone interpreter services, the agency should be able to provide an average
connect rate of under a minute, measured from when the phone starts to ring at
the agency to when an interpreter is on the line. Some agencies’ average connect
rates are under 30 seconds.
Effective complaint resolution
Preferably, there should be someone assigned to your account (an account
manager) or someone assigned to resolve problems who will respond to your
concerns promptly. It is reasonable to expect at least a return call within 24 hours, even if resolving the problem takes longer. Agreements should then be fulfilled and promised services delivered. In addition, the agency should have a method of tracking and documenting concerns so that patterns can be identified.

Good business practices
Language agencies should be treated like any other contracted service:
There should be a clear contract in place that assigns liability and specifies
responsibilities, pay rates and the manner of resolving difficulties. A contract
should be signed regardless of how small a client you may be.
Computerized billing
The agency should have a system for providing accurate, timely billing.
Computerized billing is a virtual necessity, with tracking based on signed
encounter forms if the service is done in-person.
Data collection
The agency should have the capacity to collect and report on basic data such as
appointment date, language, encounter, name of the interpreter, and start and end times.
Financial stability
The agency should be financially stable. Agencies which function with limited cash
flow will not be likely to provide you with consistently high-quality services.
Agencies can reasonably be expected to wait 30 days for payment, but if your
institution routinely takes 60 or 90 days to pay contractors, you should make sure
the agency is able to wait that long for payment and still remain solvent.
The agency or its interpreters should not solicit your providers directly but should
deal with administration.

Extra services
Some agencies may be able to provide additional services such as customized billing, participation in pilot projects, special tracking, provider training, telephonic aid in identifying patient languages, language identification cards, patient reminder calls, account managers, special pricing programs, implementation support and consulting services around language access services.

What’s not reasonable?
As mentioned above, some expectations of agencies are not reasonable. NO agency can be expected to:
• Fill all your requests all the time.
• Guarantee a 0 percent no-show rate.
• Have access to interpreters in every language in the world.
• Provide highly trained interpreters in languages of very low demand.
• Guarantee in-person interpreters available in under an hour.
• Provide weekly billing.
• Allow you to require its interpreters to do written translations while on an
interpreting assignment.
• Provide patient transportation.
• Allow its interpreters to participate in medical interviewing or securing
information from patients without providers present.
• Publish a list of its interpreters.
• Give out telephone numbers of interpreters.
• Allow you to work interpreters over three hours without a break.
• Provide highly complex data analysis at no extra cost, beyond normal
• Implement different policies and procedures for each customer.
• Allow you to contract directly with an interpreter who has come to your
institution through the agency.
• Write off charges incurred because of errors on the part of the health institution

Most important in deciding what is reasonable and unreasonable to expect from an agency is to have clear understandings at the beginning of the partnership and to maintain regular open lines of communication so that difficulties can be addressed and resolved.

Source: Roat, Cynthia E. “How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies.” Los Angeles: The California Endowment, February 2003.

(Go to Part 3.)

How to Chose the Right Interpreting Company: Introduction

It's been a while since the California Endowment released Cindy Roat's letter on how to pick the best interpreting company for you. But the information in it is still important today. In effort to try to get this information to our clients, I'm going to post the letter here, with Cindy's permission. Technically, the California Endowment requests that we publish this in its entirety. Unfortunately, Blogger has another idea as blog entries can only run a certain length. I'll be publishing the letter one section at a time, instead, but these entries will be back to back and I certainly encourage you to read them all.

Let me know what you think!


It happens every day. A patient comes in for an appointment; the doctor speaks English, the patient speaks Spanish. The social worker meets with a client about a problem with food stamps; he speaks English and Spanish, the client speaks Hmong. The school nurse calls home about a child with a fever. She speaks English; mom speaks Farsi, Armenian, Somali, or one of a hundred different languages. How is the service provider to do his or her job well in the face of these language differences?

There is a growing awareness in California, and across the United States, of the importance of quality language services to support communication between service providers and Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients and clients. Federal Civil Rights guidelines and accreditation standards are becoming clearer about these requirements.1 A growing body of research is showing that the use of family, friends and untrained bilingual staff to interpret leads to poor communication, and other research is showing that unclear communication leads to poor outcomes and higher service costs. Serving a multilingual community is becoming the norm for most health and human service organizations, leaving administrators searching for the resources that will help them close this language gap most efficiently.

There is no one formula for providing language access services. Hospitals, clinics and social service agencies are hiring staff interpreters, training bilingual staff to interpret and recruiting bilingual providers. Many are turning to a unique resource and a growing industry that can play a vital role in assuring language access for LEP patients and clients: the language agency.

Language agencies are organizations that provide interpretation and/or translation services to another organization, usually in return for a fee. They are also called interpreting agencies or translation agencies. They may differ in a number of ways. Some only provide interpreter services; others provide a variety of services. Some provide in-person interpretation only, some telephonic interpretation only, others provide both. Many are small, privately owned, for-profit companies, often started by entrepreneurs who were (or still are) interpreters themselves. Some are divisions within nonprofit community service agencies set up to coordinate support for immigrants and refugees. Others, especially telephonic interpreter agencies, may be large national corporations. Some specialize in particular venues, such as the legal or health care arenas, while others serve a variety of industries. None of these profiles are intrinsically better than the others; the key is to have
a clear idea of what you want from the agency and to choose one that meets those requirements.

How best to use a language agency? What can you expect from such a service? And, how do you choose a good one? This publication is designed to assist health and human services administrators who are interested in contracting with a language agency and who are asking themselves these questions. It deals principally with agencies providing interpreter services, as opposed to translation services, and spoken language as opposed to sign language. Much of the information included here, however, will also apply to translation agencies and to agencies specializing in interpretation for the deaf and hard of hearing. The purpose of this publication is to help you consider how a language agency might fit into your language access program, to suggest what you might look for when you are choosing an agency, and to help you avoid unrealistic expectations of an agency. In addition, a compendium of a few language agencies from each region of California is included to give you a sampling of existing resources. Language agencies can be a valuable partner in serving your LEP clients and patients; hopefully this guide will help you to find a good one and to work with it efficiently.

Source: Roat, Cynthia E. “How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies.” Los Angeles: The California Endowment, February 2003.

Go to Part 2.

Meet Di

Di is one of our Chinese translators, and the first translator to complete a video bio for us.