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Spoken Language Interpreting Services

The Provincial Language Service provides interpreting services to BC health authorities and private physician offices.

Please Note: This service is requested directly by health care providers. If you are a patient or family seeking interpreting services, contact your health care provider.

What we do

Interpreter, patient and momOur services include:

  • Onsite spoken language interpreting for official minority language speakers and immigrant and refugee populations 
  • Remote interpreting by phone or video conference
  • Online booking, schedule changes and reporting

We will dispatch a professional interpreter to your location or immediately connect you with a professional interpreter over the phone.

Languages interpreted

We provide spoken language interpreting services in over 150 languages. Download the list of languages we interpret and translate. If you don't see the language you need on this list, please contact us.

Note: Please determine if your client requires Mandarin, Cantonese or another Chinese dialect.

Who we serve

We provide interpreting services to health-care professionals who work for any agency or service under the BC health authorities and private physician offices.

Interpreting Services for the following health authorities are consolidated and funded under a centralized budget.
  • Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA)
  • Providence Health Care (PHC)
  • Fraser Health (FH)
  • Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)
 

Interpreting services may be accessed by all Island Health staff and are funded under a separate centralized budget administered by Island Health.

 

Interpreting services are provided to Interior and Northern Health staff on a fee-for-service basis. For more information, including rates, please contact pls@phsa.ca.

 

Interpreting services are available to private physician offices including BC family practices and specialists. Telephone interpreting is available for office-based family physicians and nurse practitioners at no cost. For more information, please contact pls@phsa.ca.

 

Modes of interpreting

PLS provides spoken language interpreters to enable communication between patient with limited English proficiency, clients and health-care practitioners. 

We offer the following modes of interpreting:

  • on-site
  • over the phone
  • video conference

Why use a professional interpreter

A qualified interpreter optimizes the delivery of safe and equitable health care for patients with various cultural and language needs.

BC health providers who use telephone interpreting report it to be timely, helpful and reasonable to use, even on a busy day.  

There are more than 350 skilled language specialists available for in-person and phone interpreting across the province. 
PLS interpreters adhere to rigorous quality-assurance measures and to national professional standards. 

Code of ethics

  • Accuracy and fidelity – interpret the message accurately and completely, without additions or distortions
  • Confidentiality – all information learned during interpretation is confidential
  • Impartiality – striving to show no bias to either side during interpretation
  • Maintaining role boundaries – professional role; no personal involvement
  • Accountability – accountable to all parties and organizations for accuracy of interpretation
  • Professionalism – act in professional and ethical manner at all times
  • Continued Competence – lifelong learning to keep up with changes in language
Professional interpreters are trained to accurately convey all parts of a message without changing the content, meaning or tone, reducing errors. 

Using an interpreter allows the patient or family member to focus solely on understanding their illness or to support a loved one.

Remember that family and friends should not be used as interpreters. The role of the family in an interpreter-assisted appointment should be one of support, similar to the role of family in an appointment in which the health care provider and patient speak directly.

Information for your clients


Access interpreters

Health care providers can access in-person interpreters or connect to an interpreter over the phone within minutes. For family practices and specialists,visit the private physician offices section below for access instructions.

Health authority staff

  • First time user? Sign up by calling 604-297-8400 or toll-free: 1-877-BC Talks (228-2557) during business hours (8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.).
  • Immediate or phone booking: Book or connect to a phone interpreter immediately by calling 604-297-8400 or toll-free: 1-877-BC Talks (228-2557)
  • Advance booking: To access an interpreter more than two business hours in advance, use the PLS online system. Need an online booking ID or forget your password? Call the number above or email pls@phsa.ca
Please have the following information ready:
    • Appointment date
    • Start and end time
    • Location
    • Language
    • Purpose of appointment

  • User guides are available on your intranet (accessible only while on a health authority network):

    PHSA POD  |  PHC Connect  | FH Pulse  | VCH Connect

Private physician offices

  • Sign up: Contact pls@phsa.ca to get started. 
  • Connect with an interpreter: Refer to the phone number on your access card from the Provincial Language Service or contact your division of family practice for access information.  
The following video provides a quick reference for family practices to access and work with an interpreter over the telephone: 

 Content Editor ‭[5]‬

  • Visit the Tips & best practices tab above for more tips and information on working with an interpreter in a variety of situations.
  • Print out this reference card to help you quickly and easily access a qualified interpreter from your office or clinic.  

Tips & best practices

Learn tips for working with an interpreter on the telephone. Review best practices for working with patients, translation tools and interpreters in various situations.

Tips for working with an interpreter on the telephone

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities for you and the interpreter at the start of the session: i.e.  “Hello interpreter, my name is (Dr. ___) I am a physician and I have a (Cantonese) speaking patient in the office with me today. (Provide some contextual info i.e. the patient is here regarding flu like symptoms). Please introduce yourself to the patient, explain who you are and your role.”
  • Elaborate by being more descriptive when giving directions to the patient as the interpreter cannot see your gestures i.e. “Turn your head to the left,” rather than, “Turn this way.” 
  • Speak in first and second person as you would in normal conversation when speaking with a patient in English i.e. “Do you have a fever?” rather than “Ask her if she has a fever.”
  • After speaking two to three sentences or finish a thought, pause to give the interpreter time to interpret. 
  • Ask the patient questions to ensure they understand what was communicated. Avoid missing non-verbal details from the patient by asking questions in different ways. 
  • Articulate clearly and ask others to do the same. Encourage the patient to speak slowly and ensure confidentiality of the process if the patient seems anxious.  
  • Use plain language by avoiding the use of idioms or jargon. These words or phrases may confuse the patient, and do not allow an interpreter to convey the message accurately and completely.
  • Explain to the patient these calls may take longer as the interpreter is there to facilitate communication.
 
Please note: The interpreter is bound by professional ethics and standards, and will not frame questions or provide explanations for you; they will interpret what you or the patient has said. 

Don’t ask the interpreter to step outside their role (e.g. don’t ask them to stay on the phone after patient has left to ask additional questions) or to summarize or give explanations. 


Best Practice Guidance


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