Free translation and interpretation help in the USA

Do you need to talk to someone in English but you do not speak it? A translator or interpreter can help. Learn about your rights to free translation help and how to ask for it. Find other ways to get free translations.

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What is an interpreter and translator?

Interpreters and translators communicate messages from one language to another. They help people talk to each other and understand speech and text in different languages. 

Interpreters translate spoken and signed words. Interpreters can work in person, over the phone, or via video. They can interpret speech at the same time it is spoken (simultaneous) or after every few sentences (consecutive). 

Translators interpret written text. This includes text in documents, articles, books, and videos.

You have the right to language access services for all government services. This means you can get free translation services and interpretation help. Language access is meant to help people with limited speaking proficiency (LEP) access programs and activities in their own language.  

All government agencies and organizations funded by the government must provide you with free assistance in your language. This includes free interpretation and translation of important documents. In certain cases, USCIS requires you to find your own translator and bring your own interpreter to appointments. 

You can ask for an interpreter or translator at:

  • federal, state, and local courts
  • social services offices 
  • legal services offices 
  • immigration offices 
  • police departments 
  • public hospitals
  • public schools 

Find an interpreter or translator

For government-funded programs:

Government agencies and organizations funded by the government generally offer free interpretation and translation services. Ask for language support if you do not speak, read, or write English fluently. These agencies cannot refuse you services because of your ability to speak or understand English. 

You can also ask for language support if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability. Call 711 for free help communicating over the phone in all 50 states and territories. Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) includes voice-based and text telephone (TTY) support but not calls through the internet. 

Tips for asking for language support: 

  • Check with your service provider to find out how to ask for an interpreter or translated material. Some offices may have you make a request online.
  • Be sure to state your preferred language or dialect. Say “I speak Spanish. I need an interpreter OR I need a translator.
  • Tell your service provider if you have other preferences, such as a female or male interpreter.  
  • Ask how far in advance you need to ask for an interpreter or translated material. In most cases, offices will need to schedule an interpreter or translation before your appointment depending on your language. 
  • Tell your service provider if you plan to bring your own interpreter. They may have rules about who you can interpret for you.

Find information on how to ask for an interpreter in different places:

For non-government-funded programs: 

You can find translation and interpretation help in your community. 

  • Reach out to a trusted family member or friend for support. 
  • Ask your local refugee resettlement agency for free translation help.
  • Use these free online resources to find an interpreter or translator for help

Free translation tools online

Google Translate is a machine translation tool. It translates text and speech in over 100 languages in your browser or from the mobile app. You can speak into the app and it will talk back to you. You can translate conversations in real-time. You can handwrite or type text, or use your camera to translate text on signs and notes. You can use Google Translate to translate entire web pages. Watch this tutorial to learn how to use Google Translate.

Tarjimly offers free translation support to refugees, asylum seekers, and aid workers in over 121 languages. Tarjimly connects you with a volunteer translator on their app where you can start a conversation. You can send messages, voice messages, photos, or make a phone call.  

  • Respond Crisis Translation provides free translation and interpretation support to individuals, families, and organizers in 105 languages. 

How it works 

Professional translations and interpretation. It may take more or fewer words and time to translate your language into English and vice versa.

Interpreters and translators communicate what is spoken or written exactly without changing the meaning. They cannot add or delete information. 

Interpreters may ask you to clarify a specific word or phrase to make sure they understand you. 

Professional interpreters and translators must keep all your information confidential. They cannot share your information with anyone without your permission.

Tips for communicating with an interpreter

  • Talk to the service provider, not the interpreter. 
  • Speak clearly and slowly using short statements.
    • (1-2 sentences at a time)
  • Allow the interpreter to complete interpreting before continuing.
  • Tell the service provider if you don’t understand them.  
  • Ask questions when you don’t understand something. 
  • Ask for repetition or clarification of words. 
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The information on this page comes from USCIS,, and other trusted sources. We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.