Language Line brings clarity and access to information and services for those who speak little or no English.

Business people sitting at a table with a teleconference phone on it.

Using an interpreter

Language Line is simple to use and provides an interpreter so you can have a three way conversation with the client, the Language Line interpreter and yourself.

Using a professional interpreter can save time and money. Language Line offers accuracy, neutrality and confidentiality.

Anyone wanting an interpreter simply visits or calls a participating agency or business. Within minutes, an interpreter is available on the telephone allowing the official or staff member and the client to communicate efficiently and with confidentiality. Language Line also enables clients to choose the gender of their interpreter.

The opportunity to interact with agencies and businesses is important for all citizens and vital for the effective settlement of new migrants. Language Line improves customer services for non-English speaking clients of the participating agencies.

Officials and staff members

Officials and Staff members are the people who work for the participating agencies e.g.. customer services representatives, doctors, lawyers, Local Government, teachers, or staff in the private sector who deal with the public.

View a Language Line telephone interpreting session from the customer service viewpoint.

How to use Language Line


Step by step guide to using the service

  • When you realise someone doesn’t fully understand or speak English, offer the person an interpreter.
  • Ask the person what language they speak.  Ensure that you find out the language not the country. See Languages by Country for assistance.
  • Dial your organisation’s confidential Language Line 0800 number.  Remember this number is confidential and specifically for your organisation, and should not be given out.  If you do not know what your confidential 0800 number is, call the Language Line administration office on 0800 656 656.
  • Once you have reached the Language Line Call Centre, give them your name, the name of your organisation, the name of your practice, branch or business unit and the language you want.  If you want to specify gender, ensure you tell the Call Centre your selection at this stage.
  • Wait a few minutes until the interpreter comes on the line. Once the interpreter has been connected, introduce yourself.  Use your first name and then begin your dialogue.
  • At the end of the call, ensure that you clearly indicate to both the client and the interpreter that you have finished.  For example, say “Thank you, good bye”.

The advantages of using this service are that it brings accuracy, neutrality and confidentiality to discussions with your client where language might otherwise be a barrier.

Important Points to Remember

  • If you have asked the client what language they speak and all the interpreters in that language are already engaged, ask the client if they speak another language.
  • Speak directly to your client rather than the interpreter. You should conduct your business as usual with pauses added.
  • Speak in short concise sentences.  Remember everything you say has to be repeated by the interpreter.
  • Try not to use too much jargon when talking. If you use technical language, explain it in plain English and pause to let the client ask questions.

Other information

Non English speakers and those that work with them

View a Language Line telephone interpreting session from the viewpoint of the non English speakers.

How Language Line Works

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