Language Tools and Resources

The Migration Policy Institute's (MPI) Language Portal is a Translation and Interpretation Digital Library where anyone can search the database to find resources used to provide services to LEP individuals, including:

The Translator Journal features linked articles primarily related to translating, though interpreting is also mentioned.  Additionally, it features links to translation tools

Multilingual Sites

  • WordReference - a valuable, user-friendly online dictionary. Select the two languages, type in the word for which a translation is desired in one language, and the translation of that word (and other information) appears instantly.
  • Terminology, by Agile Tortoise, includes a dictionary, thesaurus and word research tool in an integrated package.
  • Freedict offers links to bidirectional dictionaries in 16 languages.
  • Your Dictionary - Features a range of online dictionaries, thesauruses, word games, and other references.
  • Dictionarist - Multilanguage dictionary helpfully provides many example sentences; a bit of experimenting suggests usability may be lower outside of European-based languages. 
  • Lexicool - online dictionary search engine currently has links to over 3500 bilingual and multilingual dictionaries and glossaries.
  • Logos: 1,275 glossaries in over 60 languages

Educational glossaries

For bilingual glossaries of Department of Education Terminology in several languages (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu, click here to go to the website of New York City Schools.

Social and human services glossaries

Glossaries of commonly used terms in human and social services put out by the San Francisco Department of Human Services, and available in:
     - Russian
     - Spanish
     - Vietnamese

French glossaries

  • For Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program informational materials in French, Spanish, and other languages, click here.  
  • For The SIL French/English Glossary of Linguistic Terms, click here.

Social Security (Spanish only)

For the glossary that was put out by the U.S. Social Security Administration, click here.

Public Health

This glossary, available in Spanish, French and Portuguese, is on a website with many tools for translation. It was developed by the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services. Click here

Colloquial and vulgar language

Interpreters often say they cannot interpret the "bad words" because they don't know them. For Spanish interpreters, the following may be a helpful resource:

Glosario de Términos Vulgares e Insultos. Malas Palabras

Hand-held Bilingual or Graphic Aids

Polyglot Systems "ProLingua MP" is a hand-held device (not free of charge: see the website for details) that permits hospital staff to speak directly with LEP patients.

It does not claim to be a substitute for interpreters. However, by using the ProLingua device, hospital staff can initiate conversation with patients while waiting for an interpreter to arrive. It can also be used for simple, common questions and directives. Click here for details.

An analogous device for Spanish and English called the Converser, also not free of charge, has been produced. Details are available at (The authors have no familiarity with these devices and cannot attest to their accuracy or value.)

For a report on symbol usage in health care settings for LEP patients published by the Hablamos Juntos program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, click here.

Polyglot Systems has produced, for a fee, a set of laminated "Patient Initiator Cards" with universal symbols for LEP patients to point to indicate that they want to have an interpreter, find a nurse, get something to eat, make a telephone call or learn where the bathroom is.

Language Specific Resources

Health Information Translations offers a wealth of health information translated into more than a dozen languages; for example, what a 'bone marrow biopsy' is -- in Korean -- and what would be involved in preparing for this test.  Search by language, topic, or keyword.

The National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland has launched an e-learning portal featuring thousands of articles in a wide variety of languages with the idea of offering students of language an almost bottomless resource for study and self-improvement.  The topics may be browsed for free, though a subscription is needed to view the content (currently $5 a month for individuals).

The Polish Language Website created by Oscar Swan, Director of Slavic Language Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, is devoted to the teaching of the Polish language worldwide. It is free and contains an on-line Polish dictionary, a reference grammar, a first-year Polish course, computer-graded language quizzes, a collection of Polish short stories, a Polish songbook and more.

First published in 1997, the magazine Materiales para la enseñanza multicultural is issued by the Spanish Education Office in Washington DC, USA. It includes articles about teaching and learning and practical ideas that are ready to use in class at all levels. is more than a Spanish dictionary; it also features online translators, verb conjugations, grammar practice, and flashcards.

Other Resources for Interpreters

Here is an amazing resource for interpreters, especially those who perform conference and community (including medical) interpreting. InterpretimeBank is an online community of interpreters who help each other out, not only by sharing resources and knowledge--but also practice time. You simply donate time to help other interpreters around the world practice, and you get the same hours in return.

The Deaf Interpreter Institute site serves as a "learning, sharing, and networking site for deaf interpreters", in addition to those faculty, staff, and other interpreters who work with them.

Therapists today often need interpreters. Yet their experiences are not always positive.  Enter Mothertongue, a UK nonprofit that runs a mental health interpreting service and has extensive experiences with refugees. They offer a free training video to show how mental health professionals can work effectively with interpreters.

The University of Arizona provides some great links for resources to practice your simultaneous interpreting skills.