Accessing interpreting services when calling government agencies

Find out how to request an interpreter if you or someone you know needs language support when calling a government agency in New Zealand
MEC Interpreting eLearning English

Accessing interpreting services when calling government agencies

If you want to call a government agency in New Zealand, but you need language support, you can request an interpreter for free. In this scenario, we take you through an example phone call to Healthline to show you how the process works.

You can access the scenario in English, or into one of our 20 translated languages. Select the language you want to complete this scenario in and go to "Language support when calling government services".

Accessing an interpreter when calling government services

It is the government agency’s responsibility to make sure its services are accessible. This includes providing professional interpreters to the public for free.

How to get an interpreter:

  1. Call the government agency.
  2. Ask for an interpreter and tell the person on the phone the language you speak. You will need to ask in English, so practise saying the words ‘interpreter’ and the English name for your language before you call.
  3. You will be asked to wait. Stay on the phone - do not hang up.
  4. If available, a professional interpreter will join to help you. Government agencies may need to book interpreters in advance for some languages.

If you require an interpreter for a face-to-face or video conference meeting, email the agency beforehand to ensure an interpreter is available.

Many government agencies and councils can assist you with interpreting support. Find the full list at:

If you have questions or concerns about accessing government interpreting services, email us at

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Translation services

The Department of Internal Affairs provides professional translation and other language services.

These include:

  • quality assessment
  • typesetting
  • transcription
  • cultural advice to businesses, central and local government, and private individuals

They can help if you:

  • are applying for Immigration or Citizenship
  • need to communicate information to non-English speaking communities in New Zealand or around the world
  • need documents translated for legal, employment or travel purposes

Find out more about the Department of Internal Affairs Translation Service

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