For newcomers to equitably receive the vital integration services they are eligible for, language access is essential. As service providers know, working with a professional in-person or telephonic interpreter from the same cultural and linguistic background as the client is always ideal. But live interpretation is not always possible given the demands of newcomer services. For example, what should a caseworker do when a newcomer family walks in unexpectedly to request services? How will volunteers build meaningful relationships with newcomer clients without a shared language? How can resettlement agency staff quickly share urgent updates with clients like meeting time changes if they lack available live professional interpreters?
An interpreter is a person who converts a spoken (or signed) message from one language to another. A translator is a person who converts written text form one language to another. Learn more here:
- Introduction to Working with Interpreters
- Overcoming Challenges in Interpretation
- Scripts for Working with Interpreters
Mobile Apps for Newcomers
To help address situations like these, Switchboard has compiled a list of mobile apps to support refugee service providers in navigating challenges of interpretation, translation, and resource-sharing in linguistically and culturally supportive ways. Please note, however, that these apps should be considered for things like short, simple conversations, appointment reminders, straightforward information-sharing, and initial inquiries to get a baseline understanding of what someone needs. They are not intended for sensitive or technical matters like medical, psychological, legal, or other complex needs.
This list is not exhaustive, but features apps based on selected criteria such as cost to the user, language diversity, usefulness in comparison to competitors, and positive user reviews on app stores. With respect to cost, while some apps listed below may include in-app purchases or paid premium versions, all reviewed apps were evaluated solely based on their free versions. Note: This list is for informational purposes only. Switchboard does not endorse any individual for-profit companies.
Click through the tabs on the boxes below to explore general translation and interpretation tools, as well as tools with more specialized functions. To view this piece in a printable chart, check out this Switchboard downloadable resource.