Interpretation: Spoken Languages and ASL


Translation vs. Interpretation

If you need someone personally present (or participating remotely) for a live event, conveying meaning between speakers of two different languages or between deaf and hearing people, we can provide interpreters from our extensive roster of subcontractors. This is a distinct service from translation, which deals with written language, though some interpreters also translate. To get an interpretation quote or book a session, please submit our request form, and we'll match you up with the best interpreter available. 

It only takes one session to see the difference between communicating through a bilingual helper and communicating through a professional, trained interpreter with a vast vocabulary and toolbox of linguistic skills!

Specialized Interpreters

The main interpretation specialties in the US are medical, legal, community and conference. Most interpreters have experience in more than one specialty, especially for less-common languages.

  • Medical: interpreters help doctors, nurses and other health care workers communicate accurately with Limited English Proficient patients and family members, improving care and saving lives
  • Legal: includes general legal interpreters, who may work in law firms, administrative hearings, immigration court or with law enforcement, as well as court licensed/certified interpreters, who have demonstrated through rigorous testing that they can accurately relay meaning between languages on the record in courtrooms and depositions
  • Community: serve in a variety of settings that don't require medical or legal credentials, such as schools, social services and non-profit organizations
  • Conference: these tend to be the highest-paid, best-trained interpreters, who work in pairs interpreting simultaneously over wireless equipment at conventions, debates, international conferences and the like

On-site and Remote Interpretation

Most users of interpretation feel more comfortable working through on-site interpreters, who are able to gather more non-verbal cues and contextual information from the speakers. However, if no local interpreter is available (especially for less-common languages), interpretation by phone or video conference is a viable option. In fact, some of our interpreters work exclusively this way and cover requests nationwide. Unless you specify remote interpretation in your request, we will try to find you an on-site interpreter first. 

Sign Language (ASL) Interpretation

Sign language interpretation is distinct in many ways from spoken language interpretation, and deserves to be treated with special attention. There are an estimated 350,000 deaf people in Texas, and ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters provide a vital link to services in the hearing community, such as healthcare, courts and schools. A state agency called the BEI regulates professional ASL interpreters and issues certificates for a variety of skill levels and specialties. Unlike spoken language interpretation, the language access rights of deaf Americans fall under the ADA. An upcoming event with deaf participants does not necessarily mean arranging for a team of ASL interpreters; you may have a need for interpreters of MSL (Mexican Sign Language, known in Spanish as LSM: lengua de señas mexicana), SEE (Signing Exact English), relay interpreters including a deaf interpreter, etc. Once we receive your request we'll be in touch with further questions, to make sure we find the right solution to your needs.  

Modes of Interpretation

Depending on the situation, your interpreter may choose to work in one or more of three modes. Consecutive means one person speaks at a time, then pauses for interpretation into the other language. This is common at smaller meetings, medical visits and depositions. Simultaneous means that the speaker continues uninterrupted while the interpreter continues rendering the message into the target language to listeners on headphones (or whispering). This works best for large meetings at which most attendees understand the speaker's language. Sight translation means that the interpreter looks at a document written in one language and speaks or signs into the other language. (There are also certain special settings that call for hybrid modes.)

Important Details for Planning

When you contact us about interpretation, we'll ask some questions to make sure we find the right subcontractor or team: 

  • What language(s)?
  • When, where and how long?
  • In-person or through telecommunication?
  • What kind of event? (legal, medical, phone call, focus group, speech, conference, etc.)
  • Do you have any materials we can share with the interpreter to help him or her prepare? Industry-specific terminology can require research in advance.
  • Will you require an specific credential of the interpreter(s), other than what is required for that setting by law and industry standards?
  • Do you have any written materials that should be translated in advance to provide to the LEP participants?