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New Doors Are Opening Around the World for the Hearing Impaired

November 28th, 2018 by

The language barriers that deaf people have always faced are beginning to come down. Around the world, businesses and organizations are beginning to open their doors to the hearing impaired like never before.

A Sign Language Café in Pakistan

There’s a café in Pakistan where you can order your food using sign language. The mother, father, and brothers of the family that own the café are hearing impaired. Deaf customers can come in, order by sign language, and be served a variety of tasty foods, including the café’s special-recipe double chocolate brownies.

An Uber App for Deaf Drivers

Uber has been working with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to create a new app for deaf Uber drivers. The old app, with audible notifications, wasn’t helpful for drivers who couldn’t hear the beeps.

The new app uses flashing lights so that deaf drivers can see the messages and respond. As the driver makes their way to the rider, the rider gets a notification that their driver is deaf, and they’re prompted to enter their trip information before the driver reaches them. The app is only available for drivers in four U.S. cities, but Uber says it will be rolled out more widely soon.

A Starbucks Signing Store

Starbucks’ new Signing Store in Washington, D.C. is a coffee shop where the baristas communicate with their customers using ASL. The store not only benefits deaf customers, but it also brings employment opportunities for deaf people in the area.

Baristas at the location communicate with sign language. They also take orders using specially designed digital displays and ordering technology that uses two-way keyboards. What’s more, the Signing Store celebrates deaf culture with a mural created by deaf artist Yipiao Wang.

An Austrian Language Class for Deaf Refugees

When refugees arrived in Austria in 2015-2016, there were deaf people among them. An organization in the country saw an opportunity to help them thrive there. They began offering a unique language class for asylum seekers.

In this class, refugees who are hearing impaired learn sign language and written German, but it’s more than a language class. They also learn about the cultural norms in Austria so that they understand how they’re expected to behave at work and in the community. They learn practical skills, too, like how to fill out job forms.

These organizations and others are finally recognizing that deaf people need equal treatment and equal access. While it’s hard to say just how far and how fast this trend will go, it’s a step in the right direction. Regardless of what happens, interpreters will continue to play a role in serving the deaf community.

As a language services provider, you’re a part of the solution. Contact us at Interpreter Intelligence to learn how our platform makes interpreter scheduling easier and more reliable.

When Justice Stands Still: Here’s Why Court Interpreters Are So Important

November 9th, 2018 by

When judges, lawyers, and defendants can’t communicate with each other, the judiciary system quickly grinds to a dead halt. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. That’s because many courts lack the court interpreters that they need to keep the wheels of justice turning. In a country with both non-English speakers and limited English speakers, court interpreters play a critical role.

Ensuring Accurate Communication

Without effective communication, justice in the court system would be impossible. A non-English speaker can neither answer questions nor give important details if a court interpreter isn’t there to help. Even someone who knows some English usually has difficulty understanding and responding accurately.

A court interpreter can communicate the legal language of the court proceedings to the defendant. They can also interpret the responses of the defendant at the authentic level of simplicity or complexity expressed.

Giving Defendants a Voice

Non-English-speaking defendants may not be able to understand why they are being tried. They can’t communicate with their lawyer. They can’t explain to an only-English speaking judge why the charges against them aren’t valid.

They can’t give important details that might bring the judge to drop their case or reduce the charges. A court interpreter can give them the opportunity to tell their story and respond to questions about it. It’s an important aspect of giving defendants fair treatment.

Avoiding Court Delays

What happens when a defendant needs a court interpreter, and none is available? It’s simple. The court date is pushed back and rescheduled. One reason it happens is that the court can’t schedule a court interpreter until after they determine one is needed. That’s the first delay.

There may be other delays if an interpreter for the specific language needed is not available for each step of the process. Each delay costs both the court and the defendant precious time and money. The defendant may have problems getting back to court again. Every delay is frustrating for the defendant.

Avoiding Dropped Charges

If there are too many delays, the charges may eventually be dismissed. The court is required to provide a speedy trial. When the court can’t provide a court interpreter as needed, the delays can add up until they must drop the charges.

In Maui, an assistant professor named Kaeo needed a court interpreter to defend himself against charges related to a protest. He spoke Hawaiian, which is an official language of the state. Yet, no interpreters were available to help. The charges were dropped. No one will ever know whether Kaeo would have been convicted or not.

Scheduling interpreters is a large part of the solution. However, interpreter scheduling isn’t easy with so many different languages, so many court cases to cover, and so few interpreters to do the work. Fortunately, Interpreter Intelligence offers a platform that can help language services providers manage their interpreters to get the right ones where they’re needed. Find out how it works by contacting Interpreter Intelligence.

With efficient interpreter scheduling, the court runs smoothly and defendants get fair treatment. Everyone wins.

How Interpreters Can Help with Multilingual Voting

October 29th, 2018 by


As the U.S. moves steadily towards the next election, interpreters are helping to make voting easier for people who speak languages other than English. Although the Voting Rights Act was passed decades ago, in 1965, states have been slow to put systems in place for fulfilling its goal of giving everyone the ability to vote. Recently, that has begun to change. Interpreters are being called on to help with a variety of tasks related to multilingual voting.

Why Translated Ballots Don’t Solve Everything

Translated ballots are a good first step to helping people vote. On the other hand, have you ever really observed what happens at a busy polling place on election day? If you’ve ever worked an election, you already know that people have questions. They have questions about their ballot, how to mark it, and how to submit it.

Primaries can be even more difficult, as many people from other cultures don’t understand the concept. They may feel they’re being cheated if they aren’t allowed to vote for candidates on both Republican and Democratic ballots. So, it’s not only what’s written on the ballot, but the whole voting process that many people have a hard time understanding.

Interpreting During Campaigns

Voting is meaningless if you don’t know the candidates and their positions. Fortunately, candidates are using interpreters more often now and giving them more prominent roles in their campaigns. Sign language interpreters have been used in rallies for candidates as disparate as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

There are some challenges for interpreters working for political campaigns. For example, campaigns have certain set phrases and jargon that may not be easily translated to another language. Accuracy is always important in interpretation, of course. In the political arena, it can make a huge difference in how the audience perceives the candidate and ultimately can influence who wins the election.

Voter Registration

Voter registration is required, but some states don’t provide interpreters to assist with this important task. Going to sign up for the vote can be intimidating to someone who doesn’t speak English. They may not know what is required of them. They may have difficulty relaying the personal information that’s required on the form. Most of all, they may feel much more comfortable with the process if they have someone guide them through it. Interpreters aren’t usually on staff where registration is taking place. However, they can be called on if they’re needed.

Steps in Voting

Even people who have been voting in the U.S. for decades sometimes have trouble understanding the steps in voting. Different types of voting machines make the process confusing for those who have recently moved or just started voting. If you have a paper ballot, how do you submit it correctly to make sure your vote is counted. There may be signs saying what to do, but if the signs aren’t in a language you speak, they don’t help. With interpreters available, these people have someone to ask about these details.

Reading and Marking Ballots

Everyone who can read should be able to recognize the names of candidates. Even so, there is more on the ballot than those names. There may be instructions as well as propositions, amendments, and other issues to vote on. If there is a translated ballot, this isn’t too hard. For those who don’t receive a translated ballot, these issues can be difficult to understand. Interpreters are tasked with helping them understand the text without showing any partiality.

“Available on Request”

In some states, interpreters are made available for elections as a matter of course. In Queens, New York, for example, they are preparing for the upcoming election by hiring interpreters who will work only for that specific election.

In many other states, though, interpreters are only available on request. This means that people who need them have to know they’re available and how to make their request for help. Counties like Multnomah County in Oregon are making special efforts to get the word out about the availability of interpreters for voting. Other counties are less vocal about their ability to help non-English-speaking voters.

The problem is significant, especially in places like Florida, where there are tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have recently relocated after Hurricane Maria. Activists have brought a lawsuit against the State of Florida demanding language services for these new residents and other Hispanic voters based on the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Scheduling Interpreters for Voting

Scheduling interpretation services for rallies and elections can be challenging. Only the most skilled interpreters can handle rally interpretation effectively. A large number of interpreters are needed for elections, and they may all be needed on the same day. If the voter is in a small town or rural location where few people speak different languages, the interpreter may have to travel a considerable distance to reach only one voter.

At the same time, life goes on as usual. Court and medical interpreters must continue to do their work on election day as they do on any other day. The demands on a language services provider can be enormous. Fortunately, scheduling software is available to help LSPs manage all their interpreters even on the busiest days. To learn more about interpreter scheduling software for language services providers, contact Interpreter Intelligence.

What Can Language Services Providers Do to Help?

Certainly, the most important job of the language services provider in multilingual voting is to make sure the right interpreters are sent when and where they’re requested. Still, LSPs may wish to help in other ways as well. They may want to contact their local polling places and ask if their services are needed. They can reach out to help voters understand their voting rights and know what types of language services are available to them. In the end, interpreters for multilingual voting can make an important civic contribution to their country, their state, and their local community.

Can Alexa Really Take Over Interpreting for the Deaf?

October 5th, 2018 by

Yep. It happened. Somebody made an app for deaf people who use American Sign Language (ASL) to interact with Amazon Alexa. While all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet, the app promises a world where the deaf will no longer be excluded from technologies based on non-text input. Since most people can enjoy the benefits of voice-assisted technology, it’s a step in the right direction.

The question for people who do real-time interpretation for a living is: How soon will computers take over the industry? The answer is that such a future hasn’t arrived yet, and it isn’t likely to come tomorrow. Still, wise language service providers need to be ready to explain the advantages of human interpretation in situations where every word counts.

Where Current AI Fails in Interpretation

Interpretation of basic words and phrases is relatively easy for both beginning language learners and computers. Where it gets tricky is when the language being used has more than just a limited, literal meaning.

At its current level of sophistication, computer technology can start with a gesture in American Sign Language and replace it with its literal English equivalent. That’s great if all you want is for Alexa to turn on the TV. The technology isn’t ready for interpreting more complex meanings, though.

Cultural meanings, figurative language, and contextual cues need to be considered, too, to come up with the true and exact meaning the signer intended.

Cultural Meanings

Culture is defined as the way of life in a specific society. It can include knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors. A part of culture relates to how technologically advanced the society is. Another part is the types of art and literature in the society. All these cultural factors influence the words people in the culture use and the way they put them together.

Whether the language is ASL or a spoken language like Spanish or Chinese, it’s used differently in different cultures. A person who lives in Barcelona uses Spanish differently than someone who comes from Argentina. Culture influences the way people use sign language around the world, too.

Figurative Language

Poetry is probably the hardest type of language to translate. It’s not only filled with cultural meanings, but it also uses metaphors extensively. As an interpreter, you may never be asked to translate a poem. However, figurative language doesn’t just happen in verse. People from all walks of life use metaphors to describe their world. A human interpreter can understand that when someone uses a metaphor like “He was my rock,” they don’t mean he was a block of stone.

A computer doesn’t understand anything. It simply substitutes one word or phrase for an equivalent word or phrase. Common figurative equivalents can be programmed into the system, but what about the person who creates their own metaphors as they speak? It isn’t at all uncommon. Human interpreters know what to do with figurative language, while computers still just don’t get it.

Contextual Cues

Software developers have been working on creating software that can use contextual cues in translation. Clik earbuds translate 37 languages, and they have a contextual component, too. They can analyze the sentence before rendering an interpretation based on the contextual meaning.

Yet, context often goes beyond a single sentence. The context may be found in the entire conversation as well as in the location where the conversation is taking place and the people who are present there. An interpreter who is right there in the room with the speaker or signer has much more information about the context of the conversation than a machine currently has to work with.

Besides that, contextual cues are constantly changing, because, well, the world is constantly changing. The human interpreter can stay abreast of the newest words and phrases, and they can recognize and understand word inventions as they happen.

What Can a Language Service Provider Do?

It’s a good idea to document instances where human interpretation was essential to the correct understanding of important details. If you follow privacy protocols, you can use those examples to build your reputation. Besides that, interpreters who are fully aware of the difference they’re making will be more motivated to stay in the industry.

Getting on the Technology Bandwagon

Computers probably won’t be able to come close to the proficiency of a human interpreter for the foreseeable future. Computer interpretation might work fine for common daily tasks, but when precision and accuracy are absolutely required, such as in a court or a hospital, computers just aren’t up to the task.

At the same time, technology can be very useful for interpreters. Just having smartphones and tablets can enhance the interpreter’s workflow. Interpreter software solutions are also helpful for promoting the language service provider’s reputation. The software we provide at Interpreter Intelligence can help with scheduling and workforce management to help get the right interpreters with the right qualifications where they’re needed. That’s important. After all, if you want to do it better than a machine, you have to have the right interpreter for each job.

So far, there is no viable substitute for a human interpreter. As technology advances, language service providers will need to stay aware of the state of the industry. They’ll need to adapt to the changes that are coming. They’ll need to use technology for their own purposes, to manage their interpreters and customers, to build their reputation, and to grow their business. Most of all, they’ll need to educate their customers on the superiority of human interpretation.

Finding the Right Approach to Interpreter Scheduling Challenges

September 13th, 2018 by

How is your interpreter scheduling system working for you? If you find that your organization is plagued by missed appointments, communication overload, or general scheduling confusion, you’re not alone.

Scheduling is a tough task for any organization or busy individual. It can be even harder when your schedule includes keeping track of service providers you need often but don’t hire into your company. The good news is that with the right approach, you can accomplish all your interpreter scheduling tasks efficiently and effectively.

Interpreter Scheduling Challenges

Any organization that uses interpreters, whether it’s a hospital, court, or private business, has its own unique challenges. One of the greatest challenges is getting the interpreters you need when and where you need them without a hitch. That big challenge can be divided up into several scheduling functions.

Syncing Calendars

Calendars are extremely useful for tracking interpreter appointments. The problem is that everyone involved has to have the same information on their calendars. Miscommunication or simple human error in marking down the service date can cause interpreters to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. That can result in court delays, added costs, or patients struggling to make life-or-death decisions without adequate information.

Keeping Track of Interpreter Availability

The need for interpreters has grown tremendously in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18% more interpreters and translators will be needed in the next 10 years. Since interpretation services often depend on individuals who set their own schedules, one of the greatest challenges is to find an interpreter who can be there when the customer needs them.

Managing Customers’ Requests

Interpreters have scheduling challenges of their own. They need to be able to get the service requests from their customers. For both individual interpreters and companies that offer interpretation services, it’s crucial to have all the details needed to do the job correctly.

Connecting with Busy Interpreters

Interpreters are typically very busy people. They must travel from one job to another, often taking on several jobs in one day. What’s more, they’re unavailable for communications during the times they’re interpreting. You need to be able to connect with them even when they’re at their busiest.

Dealing with Missed Events

Even if the organization and the interpreter have the same information, so many circumstances can cause either one to miss important events, including anything from submitting timesheets to the job itself. Missed events may not be preventable in cases like sudden illnesses or car wrecks. Most often, though, people miss appointments because they don’t have time to check their calendar or they simply forget. Once the time for the appointment has passed, the organization has more work to do to reschedule the activity they needed the interpreter for as well as the interpreter services.

Why Common Solutions to Scheduling Interpreters Don’t Work

The days of writing down appointments with pencil and paper are nearly over, although some people still do things that way. With the advent of computer technology, though, a wide variety of solutions has been presented for dealing with scheduling issues. Each solution may or may not do what it does adequately. Yet, each solution is just one small piece of the scheduling pie. Somehow, they haven’t come together to solve all the problems inherent in scheduling for interpreter work.

Doing Scheduling Tasks Individually

Organizations use legacy phone systems, automated reminder calls, mobile phones, spreadsheets, email, Outlook, or all of those. Many of these solutions are helpful for the task they were designed to do but not so helpful in coordinating all the scheduling tasks together.

Using so many different systems for scheduling tasks can be daunting. Imagine using all these different solutions to schedule one appointment with an interpreter:

You open Excel to check your spreadsheet for an interpreter for the language you need, who works during the right hours and days. You open Outlook to find out their contact information. Then, you use your phone to call them to find out if they’re available for you. Now, you have to open a calendar to mark down their name and appointment time. Finally, you open another program to set up a reminder call. It’s an exhausting and inefficient process, to say the least!

Talking and Emailing to Communicate Needs

Communications are vital to any organization, but particularly so for interpreters and the organizations that use them. Sometimes having a phone conversation is the only way to work out important details of a job. The problem with talking on the phone is that it can take a lot of time to connect and speak with each interpreter or customer. Besides, a phone conversation isn’t always necessary.

Enter email. Now, you don’t have to talk in real time. You can send a message quickly, and they can get it at their leisure. The problem here is that their leisure might be long after you need to relay your message. They may only check their email once or twice a day. That’s not helpful if you need to make a request for someone to interpret right away. Your interpreter needs an easy way to manage their schedule, even when they’re on the go.

Trying to Avoid Missed Appointments

The most common way of preventing missed appointments is sending a confirmation email after the appointment has been made. That’s great but the interpreter still has to remember to mark it on their calendar and check that calendar constantly to make sure they don’t miss any appointments. Automated calls aren’t much better, because the interpreter might not be available to take the call when it comes in. What would work better is a solution that gets the notification through promptly without disturbing the interpreter while they’re working.

Is There a Better Approach?

A better approach to interpreter scheduling is to have all the scheduling tasks on one platform. When everything can be handled together as a seamless process, the organization can run more smoothly, and the interpreters can do their jobs. This better solution would include:

  • A centralized calendar
  • A system for finding out about interpreter availability
  • A way to make requests for interpreter services more efficiently
  • Automatic notifications for confirmations and reminders
  • A mobile app for interpreters

Fortunately, this better approach already exists. Your organization can eliminate all the inefficiencies of individual solutions by using a platform that combines them all in one package. If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your interpreter schedule management, contact Interpreter Intelligence for all the details.

Arizona Will Soon Require Court Interpreters To Know Law.

March 13th, 2017 by

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.26.21 AM.pngForeign language interpreters are now being subject to further their education beyond the boundaries of language interpretation. Arizona will soon require court interpreters to know the law, and this makes perfect sense. Having a clear and concise knowledge of the industry in which you are interpreting for is paramount for a successful scheduled courtroom interpretation.

There are many cases where a slight miscommunication has had detrimental effects, and we have spoken about some of them in previous posts. In this blog post, one simple misused word led to the defendant thinking he had done much worse than a traffic violation. Here is another article, in this situation, the scheduled phone interpreter misinterpreted, and what was a bleed in the brain was treated as a drug overdose. Arizona requiring their interpreters to gain a further understanding of law is a great thing, peoples lives are on the line and no chances should be taken.

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The Arizona Supreme Court recently announced it will require all 100 interpreters on staff and the 500 more who are contracted throughout the state to go through a credentialing program by 2019. The goal is to ensure they all meet a baseline knowledge of not only interpreting skills but also of the legal concepts and ethics that guide their work.

So what does this mean for language service providers (LSPs)? It shouldn’t mean too much of a change in their operations provided they have a dynamic intelligent system in place to cope with the changes in compliance. Interpreters will now have to get further education and receive the correct credentials to allow them to be eligible to interpret in a court hearing. LSPs using a system like Interpreter Intelligence can just edit their HR and compliance requirements with the option to attach a photo/scan of a certificate, then once this requirement is met, interpreters will be able to see the jobs as normal and not much will have changed from the LSPs day to day operations.

If you’re interested in learning more about Interpreter Intelligence’s industry-leading Scheduling Software or our VRI software in development we’d love to discuss how we can help you transform your business by contacting our support team.