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Interviewing with an Interpreter

Interviewing a client that does not speak your language can be a challenge.  Luckily, DHS contracts with a company called Language Line Services to give you access to interpreters that speak a variety of languages.

To access Language Line

Call: 1-866-874-3972

The automated message will request that you input an ID #.  You can request this number from a supervisor or another coworker.

After typing the ID #, you can press 1 for Spanish or 2 for another language.  If you press 2, you must name the language that you need.

Language Line can be used in three different ways:

  • You can call Language Line and ask them to dial out to a client for you.
  • If your phone has a conference call feature (ask your supervisor or a tech-minded coworker), you can be on a call with a client, discover you need an interpreter, put the client on hold, and call out to Language Line.
  • If you have a client in person, you can pass the handset back and forth or put the interpreter on speakerphone to have a conversation with the client.

Interpreter Tips and Tricks

You should

  • Speak directly to your client.  You are interviewing the client, not the interpreter.  Avoid any side conversations with the interpreter or those around you.  Focus on the client.
  • Speak naturally.  You do not need to speak louder or slower.  Speak at your normal pace, and pause after to completing each complete thought.
  • Avoid jargon or technical descriptions.  DHS Policy is full of terms that do not make sense outside of our agency.  Imagine asking your friends or family about K months, an adult non-relative, or an aged person.  They would be lost, and to make matters worse, we sometimes use the same term differently based on the program.  The good thing is we need factual information not Policy conclusions from our clients.  Take the time to ask the client for facts about their lives.  Use examples or clarifying questions if needed.
  • Check if the client understands.  Using an interpreter helps break down any cultural misunderstanding.  They might possess a greater cultural understanding of our client, but there is no guarantee the interpreter possesses the same cultural heritage as our client.  You must check and recheck if the client understands throughout the interview.
  • Expect an interview with an interpreter to take twice as long.  It takes time to get an interpreter on the line and takes twice as long for your questions and the client's responses.  On the flip side, you can use some of this time to write case notes and organize your files. 
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