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Selected Glossary of terms


Since there are many ambiguous terms related to interpreters and interpreting, we are using this page to clarify what we mean when we use the following terms.

ad hoc interpreter An untrained person who is called upon to interpret, such as a family member interpreting for his or her parents, a bilingual staff member pulled away from other duties to interpret, or a self-declared bilingual in a hospital waiting-room who volunteers to interpret. Also called a chance interpreter or lay interpreter.*

bilingual
Describes someone who has some degree of proficiency in two languages. A high level of bilingualism is the most basic of the qualifications of a competent interpreter but by itself does not ensure the ability to interpret.*

bilingual provider
A person with proficiency in more than one language, enabling him or her to provide services directly to limited-English proficient patients in his or her non-English language.*

bilingual worker/employee

An employee who is a proficient speaker of two languages, usually English and a language other than English, who is often called upon to interpret for limited-English proficient patients, but who is usually not trained.*


dual role interpreter

An employee who is a proficient speaker of two languages, usually English and a language other than English, who is often called upon to interpret for limited-English proficient patients, and who has undergone training and testing.


trained interpreter

A person who renders a message spoken in one language into a second language, and who has been trained and tested.

*Definitions drawn from the terminology document compiled by the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care.