This toolkit is intended to help those who work with the estimated 55 million individuals in the United States who speak a language other than English in their own home (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Reports, Language Use in the United States, April 2010).
Use the following icons to access resources related to addressing language barriers. Instructions for using this website's built-in Google Translate button are also included.
This website contains a built-in button for Google Translate, a free translation service that provides instant translations between 64 different languages. It can translate words, sentences, and web pages between any of these supported languages.
To use Google Translate click the icon that appears at the bottom of each website page or use the translation box below. Choose the language that you would like the page to be translated into. Be an educated reader:
TRANSLATION DISCLAIMER: Automatic translations provide the sense of a translated document, but they are not as reliable as translations by a trained professional. Therefore, any automatic translations should be used with caution.
Caution needs to be exercised when using any machine-generated health information; however, recent studies indicate that translation services can be useful when professional translation is not feasible. For example, research conducted by the Tufts Evidence-Based Practice Center and published in April 2012 by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (see Accuracy of Data Extraction of Non-English Language Trials with Google Translate under Translation Services and Resources) indicates that Google Translate has potential as an approach to help reduce language bias (omitting non-English sources from research). The authors note, however, that “reviewers may need to be more cautious about using data from these translated articles.”
If you are using Google Translate to assist you in translating materials for targeted audiences (which is very different that using this service to help you understand materials written in a language other than English), please remember to use good materials development processes and work with your intended audiences to ensure that the correct meaning of your document is expressed. Remember, dialects can change word meaning dramatically.
Beyond Translation: Best Practices for Healthcare (2012)
Includes multiple translation best practices, information addressing the latest health care compliance issues, and recent industry and government resources related to translation and cultural competence. From ViaLanguage, a provider of online medical translation and localization services.
CDC Clear Communication Index
A research-based tool to help develop and assess public communication materials.
Effective Communication Tools for Healthcare Professionals
A free online course to help health professionals acknowledge cultural diversity, address low health literacy, and accommodate low-level proficiency. Two versions of the course are available, one with continuing education credits. From the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and accredited by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
National Standards for Interpreters (2004 and 2005)
National standards and a national code of ethics for interpreters. From the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care.
Gateway to Health Communication & Social Marketing Practice
Tools to help health professionals communicate with diverse populations. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Resource for working effectively with interpreters. The resource includes information to help patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) understand that they have a right to an interpreter and tools so they can inform hospital staff of what language they speak. From the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Health Care Languages Services Implementation Guide
Steps and online resources to help health care organizations implement linguistically appropriate services to meet the needs of individuals with LEP. From the U.S. Office of Minority Health.
Improving Access to Language Services in Healthcare: A Look at National and State Efforts (2009)
A policy brief from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
Language Access Portal
Tools to help communicate with populations with limited English proficiency, developed by NIH.
National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) (2001)
Fourteen federal requirements for all recipients of federal funding. From the U.S. Office of Minority Health.
Patient Centered Guide to Implementing Language Access Services in Healthcare Organizations (2005)
Guide to help plan and implement language-access services, including interpretation and the provision of written materials and signage to meet the needs of individuals with LEP. From the U.S. Office of Minority Health.
Clear Communication: An NIH Health Literacy Initiative
Resources on plain language, writing clearly and simply for audiences with low literacy, and cultural competency, as well as resources for
consumers on how to talk with doctors. From the National Institutes of Health.
Health Literacy Resource Brief
Brief descriptions and links to key sources of information on health literacy and links to MCH Library bibliographies and organization resource lists that are related to the topic.
Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit (2010)
Step-by-step guidance and tools to help all levels of staff who serve adults, children, or both connect with individuals of all literacy levels. From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Conozca las Preguntas (Know the Questions)
Offers Spanish-speaking patients tips to improve their communication with their medical providers. From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Cross Cultural Health Care Program
Offers bilingual medical glossaries in 24 languages and a medical-interpreter-training program, Bridging the Gap, that prepares bilingual individuals to work as medical interpreters in hospital and clinic settings.
Ethnologue: Languages of the World
An encyclopedic reference work cataloging all of the world’s 6,909 known living languages and where they are spoken. The latest print edition was published in 2009. From SIL International.
Consumer Health Information in Many Languages
A collaboration of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.
Cross-cultural information and consumer-education materials in a wide variety of languages. Houses digitized consumer-education materials produced as part of the 24 Languages Project. From the Harborview Medical Center.
Education resources in multiple languages for health professionals and others to use in their communities. A collaboration of health-education specialists from four health systems in Central Ohio.
Healthy Roads Media
A source of health information in many languages and multiple formats. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine.
Offers access to hundreds of state and local agency documents used to provide services to individuals with LEP. Searchable by state, language, and service-delivery type. From the Migration Policy Institute.
Multicultural Resources for Health Information
Resources on cultural competency, dictionaries, health literacy, health information in multiple languages, interpreting, policies and standards, multicultural research, refugee health portals, and other topics. From the National Library of Medicine.
Multilingual, Multicultural Health Information
Links to brochures and other media translated into many different languages. From the Medical Library Gateway, Samaritan Health Services.
Non-English Materials and Resources
Materials in many languages. From the online catalogs of the Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Library.
NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service
More than 400 publications and audio and visual resources in 64
languages on topics such as maternity, infant health, early childhood, injury prevention, and parenting, as well as policies and guidelines for providing health services to a multicultural population. From the New South Wales (Australia) government.
Refugee Health Resources
Multilingual health information for refugees and their health professionals. From the Refugee Health Information Network.
Spanish-Language Health Resources Knowledge Path
Links to Spanish-language health resources for health professionals to share with their patients who are Spanish-speaking
Read our disclaimer about automated translations.
Apps for Mobile Devices
Smart phone translation applications (apps) such as iTranslate, SayHi Translate, and Translator with Speech are available through app stores such as Apple iPhone Apps and the Amazon App Store for Android. User ratings and reviews are typically provided.
Google Translate (Mobile Version)
Google Translate is a free translation service that provides instant translations between 64 different languages. It can translate words, sentences, and web pages between any of these supported languages. The mobile app translates both written and spoken words and is available for use on the Android and iPhone.
Accuracy of Data Extraction of Non-English Language Trials with Google Translate (2013)
This report assesses whether Google Translate is sufficiently accurate to allow researchers to include non-English-language publications in performing systematic reviews. From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
This language-services schedule lists contractors that federal agencies can use for obtaining translation and interpretation services. Included are contractors who provide services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and those who are blind or have low vision. From the U.S. General Services Administration.
Language Services Resource Guide for Health Care Providers (2006)
Describes research on language services; developing a language services plan; and how to find interpreters, translators, and training programs. Also lists multilingual tools and resources; health care symbols, and federal laws and policies. From by the National Health Law Program (NHLP). NHLP also provides additional language access and immigrant health publications including What’s in a Word: A Guide to Understanding Interpreting and Translating in Health Care (2010).
Limited English Proficiency (LEP): Interpretation and Translation
A federal interagency website that lists interpretation and translation resources and national interpreter and translator organizations. It includes multilingual materials and I Speak cards that help individuals indicate which language they speak without knowing English. From the Department of Justice.
More Than Words Toolkit
Resource developed to clarify the translation process and provide a roadmap to help health care organizations improve the quality of their translated materials. From Hablamos Juntos and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
You Have the Right to an Interpreter Campaign
Audio files in nine languages that explain the right to an interpreter in emergency rooms in Massachusetts, and a poster with information in 31 languages that individuals can point to in order to request an interpreter. From the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Disclaimers. This website strives to ensure the accuracy of content included on this site; however, this information is not intended to replace guidance from a health professional. As a convenience to our non-English speaking readers, the site can be translated from English using Google Translate. However, neither the authors of this website nor Georgetown University guarantee the accuracy of any information translated by this system and shall not be liable for any losses caused by such reliance.
Translation Toolkit for Health Professionals. (September 2012).
Authors: Beth DeFrancis, M.L.S., and John Richards, M.A., AITP, NCEMCH.
Reviewers: Olivia Picket, M.A., M.L.S., Jolene Bertness, M.Ed., NCEMCH.
Editor: Ruth Barzel, M.A., NCEMCH.