Skip to main content


A language service that reduces or eliminates language barriers wherever possible and enables two-way communications that optimize the delivery of safe and equitable care.

The Provincial Language Services provides interpreting services in more than 200 languages, from American Sign Language to Zyphe. Interpreting services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provided at no charge to B.C. patients and/or their families.

Language interpreting
Provincial Language Services provides language interpreting for official minority language speakers, Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing, and immigrant and refugee populations. 

Interpreting is a process that requires the interpreter to listen to a message in the original language (source language), and render it in a different language (target language), bridging the communication gap between speakers or signers of different languages. 

Interpreters are language conduits who accurately convey the messages of people who do not share the same language, culture, or way of communicating. 

 Script Editor ‭[1]‬

Interpreting modalities

Provincial Language Services provides interpreting services through different modalities to offer flexibility in our approach to creating access.

Some modalities suit clinical areas better than others, while other modalities allow for access in geographic areas that were not accessible previously

On-site interpreting, otherwise known as face-to-face or in-person, is when an interpreter is scheduled to meet a limited English proficiency or Deaf, Deaf-Blind or Hard of Hearing patient at a given location for a medical appointment. 

On-site interpreting is the preferred modality for most Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients and is the only workable modality for Deaf-Blind patients. 

For spoken language, on-site interpreting is available only for Lower Mainland health authorities. 

Virtual health visit interpreting is when an interpreter is scheduled to join virtual health visit appointments between a health care provider and limited English proficiency or Deaf / Hard of Hearing patient. 

Zoom for Healthcare is the recommended virtual platform for any virtual interpreter-assisted sessions, including group sessions in which simultaneous interpreting in multiple languages may be required.

Virtual health visit appointments are not suitable for most Deaf-Blind patients.
Video remote interpreting uses audio and video technologies via a device, such as an iPad, to provide interpretation virtually. Video remote interpreting is available 24/7 and is an on-demand system. Users have access to the following and are connected to interpreters within seconds:  

  • 40 spoken languages via video
  • American Sign Language via video
  • 200 spoken languages via audio
Video remote interpreting devices can be found in emergency departments in Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health Care, Interior Health, Northern Health, Vancouver Island Health, BC Children's Hospital, and BC Women's Hospital. Some health authority services have video remote interpreting devices available to use in other clinical areas as well. 

BC Emergency Health Services has video remote interpreting installed on their B.C. paramedics-issued devices for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing individuals. 

 Content Editor ‭[1]‬

Video remote interpreting is the primary modality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients in geographic locations where there is no or limited access to in-person sign language interpreters and when the communication will be short in duration. 

In a location where an on-site sign language interpreter may be available, video remote interpreting is used as an interim solution for Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients until an on-site sign language interpreter arrives. 
Over the phone interpreting connects spoken language interpreters with the health care provider and patients with limited English proficiency, via telephone. 

Over the phone interpreting is an on-demand service; users can connect to an interpreter within seconds. 

 Script Editor ‭[4]‬

Types of interpreter 

Interpreters are language conduits who convey the messages of people who do not share the same language, culture, or way of communicating. 

Spoken language interpreters are specially trained professional interpreters who bridge the communication between English speakers and speakers with limited English proficiency. 

Spoken language interpreting services are available in over 200 languages.

 Sign language interpreters

Sign language interpreters

Sign language interpreters are specially trained professional interpreters who bridge the communication between English speakers and sign language users. Sign language interpreters are hearing and fluent in the source language and sign language. 

Deaf interpreters

Deaf interpreters are individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and possess communication skills in both source language and sign language. A Deaf interpreter has extensive knowledge and understanding of Deafness, the Deaf community, and/or Deaf culture. The Deaf interpreter has been trained in the role and ethics of an interpreter and may also have specialized training and/or experience in the use of gestures, mime, props, drawings, home signs, and matching sentence structure and language development of the Deaf person for whom they are interpreting.

 Script Editor ‭[2]‬

Why use a qualified interpreter

Qualified interpreters are trained to accurately convey all parts of a message without changing the content, meaning or tone, thus reducing errors and enhancing patient safety.

Using a qualified interpreter allows the patient to focus solely on understanding the illness and care plan and increases satisfaction with care. It allows the family to support their loved ones through their care journey rather than act as language support. 

A qualified interpreter is one who:
  • Has proven language proficiency in both target and source languages; 
  • Has training from a recognized interpreting/translation education or training program or has been certified as an interpreter by a recognized professional association; 
  • Can accurately, wholly and faithfully render communication from one language to another 
Qualified interpreters adhere to a Code of Ethics and Standards that includes the following guiding principles: 
  • Accuracy and fidelity - preserves the meaning, style, and register of the source information; 
  • Confidentiality and privacy of the information provided for interpreting; 
  • Impartiality – ensures personal bias or beliefs do not impact or influence the interpreting; and 
  • Limitations of practice – linguistic limitation, time limitations, subject matter knowledge. 

 Script Editor ‭[3]‬

Need to know

  • Sign Language is not based on written or spoken English. The syntax and grammatical structure are very different from English, and English is often a second language for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients.
  • Machine translation (Google Translate) and other ad hoc language resources (paper and pen or family/friend) should only be used for non-medical conversations that do not require verification, do not increase the risk in case of miscommunication or breach of confidentiality, and when no other resources are available.
Eligibility and coverage

Eligible individuals

Who is eligible for Interpreting Services?

Interpreting services are provided for patients and/or their designate, i.e. family, friends or Power of Attorney (POA), who are: 

The following are eligible for the services available to limited English proficiency patients:

  • B.C. health authorities
  • Over the phone interpreting:
    • Family practitioners 
    • Specialists
    • Midwives
Please connect with your health care provider to arrange interpreting services. 

Access interpreters


Spoken language interpreting services must be requested by health care providers by submitting requests to the Provincial Language Services. Contact your health care provider if you are a patient and/or their designate. 

Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients and/or their designate should ask their health care providers to submit a request for sign language interpreting services to Provincial Language Services. Patients can also request interpreting services through Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility.  

Health care providers are legally obliged to provide appropriate communication access to care for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients and/or their designate. They can meet this obligation by booking an interpreter through Provincial Language Services. 

There is no charge for the services to patients or their families.

 Script Editor ‭[5]‬

Health care providers

Spoken language 

Spoken language interpreting services are available for any agency or service under B.C. health authorities and various other health care services.

Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing

Sign Language interpreting services are available to all health care professionals providing services covered under the Medical Services Plan or Hospital Insurance Act and practitioners working for a program or service under the B.C. health authorities.

Tab Heading
SOURCE: Interpreting ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © Provincial Health Services Authority. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2024 Provincial Health Services Authority