Interpreting Services FAQ - Spoken Language

Click here to view this page in Spanish

Hiring the Interpreter

Why do I need to hire an Interpreter?

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on national origin, stating that “no person shall on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”  The best way to ensure this is to provide language assistance services such as a professional Interpreter and/or translated documents.

Who is required to pay for an Interpreter?

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act states that any federally funded agency is required to pay for an Interpreter.  This means that if your agency, department, service or business receives any funding from the government, then your services must be accessible to all individuals, regardless of their national origin.

A few examples of federally funded agencies would be:
  • Any public entity that receives federal funding or financial assistance in the form of subsidies, personnel exchanges, in-kind services, loans, grants, Medicaid/Medicare
  • All federal agencies
  • States, Counties, Municipalities and their agencies and departments

What is the risk of non-compliance?

In the event that a complaint alleging a Title VI violation is made, the recipient could be faced with a compliance review by the Department of Justice (DOJ).  If the DOJ proves intentional discrimination, all federal assistance may be terminated and private plaintiffs may sue for monetary damages and injunctive relief.

Isn't it expensive to provide Interpreting services?

Interpreting services should be budgeted as part of your annual planning for accessibility services.  It is true that, on a per-encounter basis, you may pay more for Interpreting services than you generate in revenue for your company.  However, if you consider the cost over the course of a year as an overhead cost of doing business, providing access is quite reasonable.

Other items should also be considered when providing Interpreters:
  • To possibly experience a reduction in missed appointments by Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals
  • Reduction of miscommunication and errors when providing the service to your LEP consumer.
  • Reduction of liability for your agency/company.

Why do I have to have two Interpreters for my assignment?

Interpreting is a very taxing activity, both mentally and physically.  Research has shown that anInterpreter’s ability to mentally process the message and interpret it accurately diminishes drastically after approximately 20 minutes of interpreting.  Therefore, when an assignment is over 1-2 hours, two interpreters may be scheduled depending on the type of assignment.  All simultaneous Interpreting assignments over 1 hour require a team Interpreter.  In the event of team Interpreters, they will rotate every 15-20 minutes to ensure that the message is interpreted accurately for the full length of you assignment.


Someone in my office knows multiple languages.  Can we use that person to Interpret when needed?

Interpreting is a very complex task that requires more than just knowing another language.  The process of interpreting a message from one language to another requires a high level of proficiency in both languages, as well as knowing principles of accurate interpretation.  Professional Spoken Language Interpreters receive professional training and hold various certifications or certificates.  Many tend to specialize in one or two areas, for example: legal and medical Interpreting.  Each area has different requirements.

If you use someone who is fluent in both languages, but who lacks formal Interpreter training, there is no guarantee of the quality, accuracy or confidentiality of information.

How do I know an Interpreter is qualified?

As mentioned above, Spoken Language Interpreters have various requirements depending on language, content that will be interpreted and where it will take place.  Below are a few links that show you the qualifications of a Certified Medical Interpreter and a Court Certified Legal Interpreter in New York.

Certified Medical Interpreter: Prerequisites

Certified Medical Interpreter: Steps Towards Certification

New York State Unified Court System: Court Interpreting Services Exam

All of our Spoken Language Interpreters adhere to a strict code of professional conduct, according to their specialty area:

IMIA Standards of Practice
IMIA Code of Ethics
NCIHC Standards of Practice
NCIHC Code of Ethics

NAJIT Code of Ethics & Professional Responsibilities