Toolkit Overview

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.

Google Translate

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:

  • Use the translation provided only as a guide in general understanding of the page's contents (see disclaimers below).
  • You can hover over each phrase or sentence to see the original English wording for comparison.
  • You can click on the phrase or sentence to see alternative translations.

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.

Best Practices and Standards

CDC Clear Communication Index
A research-based tool to help develop and assess public communication materials.

LanguageLine Solutions: Best Practices for Healthcare Translations (2019). A collection of best practices for implementing healthcare translation services and resources that provide medical translations.

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.

Guide to Providing Effective Communication and Language Assistance Services
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.

Interpreter Services
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.

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.

Reaching People In Multiple Languages
Tools to help communicate with populations with limited English proficiency, developed by NIH.

Plain Language and Health Literacy

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. 

Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit (2020)
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.

Glossaries And Medical Dictionaries

Cross Cultural Health Care Program
Offers bilingual medical glossaries in 27 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 over 7,000 known living languages and where they are spoken. The latest print edition was published in 2019. From SIL International.

Glossaries by Language
Multiple languages and multiple topics. From Language Automation, Inc.

Materials in Other Languages

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.

Health Information in Multiple Languages
Health information in multiple languages arranged by language. From MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine.

Health-Information Translations
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.

Información en español
A Spanish language portal provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), U.S. Department of Health and Human Service.

Language Portal
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.

NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service
More than 500 publications and audio and visual resources in 78 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.

Preguntas Para Mi Cita Medica
Offers a card to help Spanish-speaking patients list the most important questions for them to ask during appointments.

Resources for Healthcare Providers
Resources from the National Library of Medicine, as part of the National Institutes of Health, prepares reliable information resources that are vetted by medical librarians for currency and accuracy. These resources also connect users to high-quality information from other NIH institutes and other organizations.

Spanish-Language Health Resources Knowledge Path
Links to Spanish-language health resources for health professionals to share with their patients who are Spanish-speaking

Translation Services and Resources

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 108 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.
Assessing the Accuracy of Google Translate to Allow Data Extraction From Trials Published in Non-English Languages (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.

Language Services
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) and Summary of State Law Requirements Addressing Language Needs in Health Care (2019).

Learn About Your Right to an Interpreter
Information about the rights of Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals seeking healthcare services though federal and federally assisted programs and guidelines for program compliance for LEP persons. Also includes audio files from the You Have a Right to An Interpreter Campaign in nine languages that explain the right to an interpreter in emergency rooms in Massachusetts, and a poster with information in 32 languages that individuals can point to in order to request an interpreter and can be edited to meet the needs of specific populations. From the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Limited English Proficiency (LEP):
Interpretation and Translation. Federal interagency webpages that list interpretation and translation resources and national interpreter and translator organizations. Included are 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.

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). (Updated March 2022)
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.

This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.