Multicultural Resources

Interpreting Services & Referral Agencies

Interpreting Introduction


Interpreting: Receiving a spoken message in one language and delivering it in another. Not as simple as it sounds, interpreting is a complex process that requires a high degree of linguistic, cognitive and technical skills.

Translating: The process of changing written messages from one language to another.

Consecutive: A style of interpretation that requires the interpreter to listen for manageable chunks of information, i.e.: ask question, interpret question, wait for answer, and interpret answer.

Simultaneous: Interpretation delivered nearly instantaneously after the original message. Rarely occurs: Interpreter must wait to hear and understand before interpreting.

Why is Effective Communition Important?

  • The provider/client relationship is built through communication.
  • When qualified interpreters are not provided, there may be serious negative consequences.
  • Serious illnesses may be misdiagnosed, minimized or ignored.
  • Informed consent is not possible
  • Unnecessary medical tests and procedures may be ordered.
  • Necessary medical tests and procedures may not be ordered.
  • Medications may be taken incorrectly.
  • Appointments may be missed.
  • Written applications and notices regarding important services and benefits are often incomprehensible, and basic human needs such as food, heat, housing and health and human services may be delayed or denied.
  • People may be illegally evicted from their housing with no hope of defending themselves.
  • Parents accused of child abuse or neglect cannot defend themselves or become reunited with their children.
  • People under arrest have no way of understanding their rights or the judicial system.
  • Basic safety procedures, and instruction in the workplace are incomprehensible.
  • Injured or ill workers cannot explain their symptoms or the cause of the injury or illness, cannot complete necessary paperwork or submit documentation, and cannot defend themselves in the workers compensation process.
  • Untrained staff, friends, family members used as “ad hoc” interpreters usually have no training in ethics, confidentiality, the skill of professional interpretation, or knowledge of concepts and terminology, commonly mis-communicate critical information, and may view their role as an unwelcome unpaid burden.
  • Confidentiality may not be observed.
  • Children used as interpreters are exposed to and burdened with confidential and inappropriate information.
  • LEP patients cannot freely express sensitive concerns, complaints, and questions when family members or friends are asked to interpret.
  • LEP clients who become embarrassed, angry, or inhibited because they can’t communicate with their caregiver may routinely delay or avoid care.

When Qualified Interpreters Are Not Used...
(Maine Horror Stories We Wish We Hadn't Heard...)

  • A newly arrived middle aged immigrant woman was involuntarily committed to a mental institution without any understanding of the criteria for her admittance, the length of her confinement, or any opportunity to participate in her therapy process. For three days she had no idea where her children were or who was taking care of them. When she became upset and angry, she was put in an anger management group.
  • A newly arrived refugee woman endured an extremely painful biopsy without any pain medication. She believed she couldn’t ask for pain medication and was too embarrassed to ask for an interpreter.
  • A seven year old was asked to tell his mother that her fetus had died in utero.
  • An frightened and very ill elderly immigrant women spent two weeks in a hospital in excruciating pain but was unable to communicate her symptoms or her most basic personal needs or ask for pain medication.
  • Hospital staff used the abuser’s best friend to interpret for the abused woman.

MaineCare Reimburses medical services providers for the full cost of interpreting services! 
As of 9/15/03, MaineCare (formerly known as Medicaid) will now reimburse providers of MaineCare-covered services to patients/clients who have MaineCare for the full cost they incur when hiring interpreters, both spoken languages and sign language.

The medical services provider must document the qualifications of the interpreter, and have the interpreter sign a Code of Ethics for each interpreted encounter.

This increase in reimbursement removes the cost barrier for medical providers to making their services accessible to those with MaineCare.

Please spread the word to the medical community and the various linguistic communities here in Maine.  The full MaineCare Benefits Manual can be found on line at:

Scroll down to section 1.06-3 Interpreter Services, and the Code of Ethics is in the Appendix at the end of the document

Interpreter Services & Referral Agencies

There are no standards of interpreting skills for spoken language interpreters in Maine. When hiring interpreters, ask direct questions about the training, screening and credentialing of interpreters, and of the interpreters used by a referral agency. Ask exactly what is meant by terms such as “qualified” “certified” or “credentialed” – those with true qualifications and training will be proud to answer the questions clearly, those giving vague or defensive answers may have a reason for being evasive.

AT&T Language Line (See: Language Line Services)

The Language Exchange, Inc
Valerie Guillet, President
80 Exchange Street
Suite 24-26
Portland, Maine 04101
Phone:  (207) 772-0405
Toll free: 1-888-772-0405
Fax:      (207) 221-1207
Web site:

Interpreting for business meetings, conferences, etc. in various languages.

The Language Exchange, Inc. is the largest multi-service translation and language instruction company in Maine. Founded in 1992 and based in Portland ME, The Language Exchange provides a broad range of language-related services to individuals, private businesses, and government agencies statewide and, increasingly nationally and abroad. These are approximately ten on-site language instructions and a multitude of on-call translators across the country. Of special interest to the local community are the adult and children language courses, tailored to skill level and learning capabilities. The Language Exchange offers children’s language camp, monthly language seminars (in addition to weekly classes) for both beginners and advanced students and social events geared toward improving language skills. In addition to offering dynamic and intensive language instructions (including French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, Polish, and Portuguese) the Language Exchange also offers services in high quality translation and interpretation to the medical, legal, corporate, and international community. Another division of the Language Exchange focuses on overseas immersion programs, including intensive language courses in Provence, Italy, Rio de Janeiro, and Martinique.

Valerie Guillet, President of The Language Exchange, is a certified translator for both French and Spanish, has taught foreign languages and cultural immersion for the past 10 years, and developed a series of training programs in inter-cultural settings.

Maine S.A.F.E (Maine Service Advocates in Foreign Languages and English)
2802 Riverside Drive
Vassalboro, Maine 04989
Phone: (207) 872-2653
Web site:

Interpreting, translating and Spanish classes.

Maine SAFE is a non-profit, volunteer organization whose primary mission is to provide services and to advocate on behalf of people for whom English is not their first language. Specializing in professional services in Spanish-English, Maine SAFE is positioned to offer its clients services in translations, interpretations, referrals to medical, legal, business and social services, local, state and federal agencies, educational and mediation services. Maine SAFE is a bilingual Red Cross provider of First Aid, CPR, PDT, and HIV/AIDS outreach programs for the Spanish-speaking community.

Maine SAFE offers Spanish courses for adults as well as a special course in Spanish for Health and Human Services Providers. Maine SAFE successfully facilitates communication between Spanish speaking individuals and state and federal agencies.

Maine Medical Center
Interpreter & Cross-Cultural Services
Contacts: Cynthia Tack, Director or Mara Gruppi-Araujo, Coordinator
Room 2371, Maine General Building
22 Bramhall Street
Portland, Me 04102-3175
Phone: (207) 662-4983
Fax: (207) 662-2969

Maine Medical Center (MMC) focuses on coordination of medical interpreter services with civil rights compliance activities, promulgating national standards for cultural and linguistic competence through staff education and professional development, and furthering health care access to multilingual and multicultural consumers of hospital services. The Department of Interpreter and Cross Cultural Services is able to provide interpreters in over 32 languages to all of MMC’s sites in Portland, South Portland, and Scarborough. If you need an interpreter for an appointment, please call (207) 662-4983 or e-mail

Catholic Charities Maine
Malvina Gregory, Program Director
250 Anderson Street
Portland, ME. 04101
Phone: (207) 523-2700
Fax: (207) 774-7166

Contacts: Use 523-2700 for all interpreting and translation requests, or email:

RISinterpret has been providing qualified and reliable interpreters since 1997 in a variety of fields. Our testing and training process prepares our interpreters for medical, legal, mental health and business settings. We offer these services throughout the state of Maine in over 40 languages.

RISInterpret offers comprehensive document translation across North America and beyond in over 200 languages. We offer an exceptionally competitive price that includes proof-reading, editing and formatting. Our client base comprises those from the healthcare industry, government, legal, educational arenas and more.

Smart Interpreters
Contact: Abdullahi M. Abdulle
Professional Building
12 Bates Street, Suite B
Lewiston, ME 04240
Phone: (207) 783-4744
Cell: (207) 740-5598
Fax: (207) 783-4644


Medical and social services interpretation; Healthcare Facilitator. Somali, Arabic, Amharic languages

Tengo Voz- I Have Voice
Contact Person: Reverend Virginia Marie Rincon
Immanuel Baptist Church
156 High St.
Portland, ME 0401
Phone: (207) 553-2252
Office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10AM-1PM, but individuals can call to make an appointment outside of these hours

A grassroots organization committed to Latino women and their families in the greater Portland area. Help with finding jobs and housing, domestic violence prevention and referral, cultural support, spiritual direction, Latino women's focus groups, educational referrals and support, social service collaboration and referrals, and interpreting.

National Telephone Interpreting & Translating Companies

(please note - this is only a partial list of companies out there.
Feel free to do your own web search)

American Translation Partners
175 Paramount Drive
Raynham, MA 02767
Phone: 1-888-443-2376
Fax: 1-508-823-8854

Written material, web sites, conference and escort interpretation, tape transcription

Certified Languages International
4724 SW Macadam Avenue
Suite 100
Portland, OR  97239
Phone: 1-800-CALL-CLI (1-800-225-5254)
Fax: 1-800-362-2941

Certified Languages International provides real-time telephone interpreting services in over 150 languages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, as well as comprehensive translation services to corporations, government agencies, healthcare facilities, law firms, educational institutions, and international organizations worldwide. CLI interpreters are routinely used by hospitals and medical clinics, courts, attorneys, insurance companies, government agencies, long distance operators, call centers, international calls, financial institutions, and in emergencies.

All CLI interpreters undergo an in-house Credentialing and Orientation program to assure they are qualified to perform in the field required. They must also pass a specialty test with a grade of 90% to be certified with CLI. In addition, interpreters are required to complete all certifications required by outside agencies. All work is supervised by our trained language supervisors on a continuing basis.

Billing for interpretation is handled through a pre-arranged account number, or can be via Visa/MasterCard if you do not have an account with CLI. Translation quotes are based upon the specific language and the job.

Choice Translating Inc.
Tyron Plaza
112 South Tyron Street
Suite 1500
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28284
Phone/TTY:  (704) 717-0043
Toll-free: 1-888-721-2077
Fax:      (704) 717-0046

Cyracom International, Inc.
5780 N. Swan Rd.
Tucson, Arizona 85718
Phone: 1-800-713-4950

Language Line Services
1 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Bldg. 2
Monterey, CA 93940
Phone: 1-877-752-6096

Offering 20 years of experience and 150 languages, Language Line offers phone interpretation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They offer subscribed interpretation service for frequent users, as well as pay-as-you-go membership for those with occasional interpretation needs.

Network OMNI Multilingual Communications
4353 Park Terrace Drive
Westlake Village, CA 91361
Toll Free:  1-866-995-OMNI

Advanced, on-demand or scheduled, toll-free over the phone interpretation services worldwide - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, in more than 150 languages.

Pacific Interpreters
707 SQW Washington
Suite 200
Portland, OR  97205
Phone: General Inquiries-1-800-311-1232  or  Sales Department 1-877-472-2434
Fax:  (503) 445-5501

They offer telephone and on-site interpretation as well as translation services. Instant access to their language interpretation by telephone from English into nearly 200 languages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Pacific Interpreters Consulting Services also provides hospitals and healthcare organizations with an in depth assessment of their cultural and linguistic proficiency, with an emphasis on cost containment and quality improvement. They also provide consulting to health care organizations establishing or enhancing a language-interpreting program.

Passport To Languages
Office Phone: (503) 297-2707
Toll Free: (800) 297-2707
24-Hour Assistance: (800) 297-2707
Fax: (503) 297-1703

Passport to Languages specializes in translating medical and legal terminology for hospitals and courts. We also supply interpreters for clinics, dentists, government agencies, state corrections, business conferences, and any other business, organization, or individual who needs experienced interpreters with specific interests and skills.

Their Language Link program is dedicated to connecting you right away to an interpreter speaking the language you need. Since Language Link is devoted only to telephone interpreting, we can ensure that your needs are met within a few seconds. You can call us 24 hours at (503) 294-1340 or toll-free at (800) 297-2707 between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm PST.

500 N. Brand Boulevard
Glendale, California 91203
Phone: 1-800-811-7881
Fax: 1-818-543-6781
E-mail: or

Realtime telephone translations, 24/7/365, in more than 150 foreign languages. Our telephone interpreters and translators specialize in OPI (over-the-phone interpreting) for all industries, globalization and cross-cultural communications. Tele-Interpreters provides for instant access to foreign-language telephone translators & interpreters – inbound or outbound. Our leading-edge CTI (computer-telephony integration) speeds every call and cuts your costs.

Phone: 1-800-752-6096

Telelanguage has been providing customized telephonic interpretation services and translation solutions to customers in the United States, Canada and Europe for over 13 years. We provide on-demand telephonic interpretation services in over 150 different languages, which enables you to be connected with an interpreter 24/7/365 within seconds.

Professional Interpreting Organizations

American Translators Association (ATA)
225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 683-6100
Fax: (703) 683-6122

ATA, founded in 1959, is the largest professional association of translators and interpreters in the U.S. with over 9,500 members in over 70 countries. ATA's primary goals include fostering and supporting the professional development of translators and interpreters and promoting the translation and interpreting professions.

Their website offers a searchable online directory of translator and interpreter services, many publications about interpreting and translation, as well as many resources for working interpreters and translators.

Association of Maine Interpreters and Translators (AMIT)
Hope Valcarcel & Suzanne Becque, Co-Chair

c/o Hope Valcarcel
PO Box 477
Milford, ME 04461-0477
Phone: (207) 944-3469

c/o Suzanne Becque
585 East Side Road
Hancock, ME 04640
Phone: (207) 422-3962
Fax: (207) 422-3962

The Association of Maine Interpreters and Translators (AMIT) is a state association founded by a small group of committed interpreters and translators from central and northern Maine and the Downeast area. They are a non- profit organization committed to:

  • The professional integrity, development and improvement of those interpreters and translators who provide interpreting and translation services in the state of Maine, and
  • The advancement of professional interpreters and translators in the state of Maine.

AMIT members provide Maine communities with quality interpreting and translation services. Membership in AMIT is open to all those employed in, interested in, or concerned with interpreting and translation.

AMIT objectives are:

  • To advocate and promote the recognition of interpreting and translating as professions in the State of Maine
  • To advocate for State of Maine legislation requiring the use of qualified interpreters and translators
  • To advocate for and promote the use of interpreters and translators living and working in the state of Maine
  • To protect and safeguard the interests of the professional interpreter and translator working in the State of Maine
  • To follow and adhere to the AMIT Code of Ethics for Interpreters and Translators and those listed in the /Maine Medical Assistance Manual/: Appendix #1, for those professional interpreters and translators practicing in the State of Maine
  • To advocate for certification and competence in the practice of interpreting and translating, and
  • To serve as a resource for interpreters and translators in Maine via meetings, workshops, an annual conference and other activities to promote education, networking, and cooperation among members.

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT)
551 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3025
New York, NY 10176-3099
Phone: (212) 692-9581 or (212) 687-4016

NAJIT seeks to bring together all persons and institutions that are committed to the advancement of the court interpreting and translation profession and firmly believes the quality of oral, sign language or written translations is vitally important to ensure due process and proper legal representation to non-English speakers or the hard of hearing/deaf who come in contact with the legal system.

New England Translators Association (NETA)

The New England Translators Association (NETA) is a professional organization of translators and interpreters with more than 250 members. NETA has members who translate in all of the major European languages and in many Asian languages as well.

Its objectives are:

  • To advocate and promote the recognition of translating and interpreting as a profession;
  • To protect and safeguard the interests of the professional translator and interpreter;
  • To formulate and maintain standards of professional ethics, practice and competence; and
  • To provide meetings, seminars, an annual Exhibition & Conference and other activities to promote collegiality, networking, and cooperation among members.

For interpreters and translators its webpage offers a variety of resources in multiple languages. For clients they offer advice on how to choose a translator as well as listings of NETA members and their languages. They also offer a job posting service for translations, which is then sent out to their membership base.

International Medical Interpreter Association (IMIA)
750 Washington Street
NEMC Box 271
Boston, MA 02111-1845
Phone:  617-636-1798 
Fax:  1-866-406-IMIA (4642)

IMIA is a professional organization of interpreters, interpreter trainers and health care facility interpreter coordinators, working on issues of accreditation, standards, and training. An informative quarterly newsletter and annual conferences are some of the member benefits.

National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC)
1217 Sunset Avenue Santa Rosa, CA 95407 Fax: (707) 541-0437

NCIHC a multidisciplinary organization based in the United States whose mission is to promote culturally competent professional health care interpreting as a means to support equal access to health care for individuals with limited English proficiency.

The NCIHC’s goals include: 1) Establishing a framework that promotes culturally competent health care interpreting, including standards for the provision of interpreter services in health care settings and a code of ethics for interpreters in health care.
2. Developing and monitoring policies, research, and model practices; 2) Sponsoring a national dialogue of diverse voices and interests on related issues; and 3) Collecting, disseminating and acting as a clearinghouse on programs and policies to improve language access to health care for limited-English-proficient (LEP) patients.

The NCIHC website offers many working papers to answer the questions: What should the role of an interpreter be? How do you test interpreters when no certification test is available? What models exist for providing language access services?

NCIHC also offers a listserve to NCIHC members where participants can raise issues, ask questions, share information and resources and network with each other around topics related to medical interpretation and access to health-care services for limited-English-proficient persons.