Public services, such as health, education, social, legal, government, or community services are an essential part of living a strong and healthy life in Canada. For many new Canadians and immigrants, understanding the English language may prevent them from accessing these critical services or using them effectively when they do. Identifying or interpreting cultural differences may also be a significant barrier to successfully integrating into their new community.

Community or family members who interpret for members of their own community can pose risks to both the non-English-speaking client and the service provider. Without proper interpretation training and adherence to Ethical Standards of Practice, there may be issues with objectivity, bias, misunderstanding, inaccurate or incomplete information, or confidentiality. Due to the sensitive and private nature of certain information (e.g., health care, legal services), it’s critical that information be presented properly and accurately and not get back to their community, which is often small and tight-knit.

The Family Centre’s Centralized Interpreter Services (CIS) provides professional interpreters so organizations can better communicate with clients who are not yet able to adequately speak or understand English. We offer interpretation and cultural insight services in more than 60 languages and dialects to help individuals live well, build strong relationships, and raise healthy families.

How does it work?

An interpreter can interpret words, ideas, and meanings. They facilitate communication between an organization and a client who speaks limited or no English by providing language and cultural interpretation.

The Family Centre offers the following interpretation services:

  • Orientation: Free staff orientation sessions to help make your time with us more efficient and effective
  • In-person interpretation: The client and organization representative deliver and interpret the message at a pre-determined location (e.g., office, client residence, or class 7 driver knowledge test)
  • Message relay (3 steps): An interpreter contacts the organization to receive the pre-determined message, phones the client to relay the message on behalf of the organization, (e.g., preparation for a medical test) and then confirms with the organization that the message was successfully delivered
  • Telephone interpretation: This involves a three-way conference call (initiated by the organization) between the interpreter, the organization representative, and the client
  • Cultural brokerage services: The interpreter explains cultural information, identifies and resolves cultural conflicts (e.g., meaning of words, practices, behaviours), or explains Canadian beliefs, values, and practices, pertaining to the professional, service provider, or organization

Who can access these services?

  • Any organization that has clients with no or limited English-speaking skills can access interpretation services (e.g., hospitals, public health centres, non-profit organizations, early intervention services, home care, provincial court houses)
  • Interpretation services are not available to be accessed by individuals

 When and where is it offered?

  • Interpreters typically conduct the service at a location selected by the organization and client. While phone services are available, we prefer to interpret in person to consider non-verbal cues, such as body language, and to more easily provide the client with a sense of reassurance and trust
  • We can usually provide an interpreter within 72 hours of a request
  • For emergencies, we will make every effort to provide an interpreter immediately or work with you to develop an on-call interpreter list for quicker access to interpreters in the future

What languages are available?

Afrikaans Bilen Chiu Chow Finnish Japanese Kikuyu Nepalese Punjabi Spanish Toishanese
American Sign Language Bosnian Croatian French Kanada Kuchhi Newari Romanian Swahili Turkish
Amharic Bulgarian Dari German Karen Korean Nuer Russian Tagalog Ukrainian
Arabic Burmese Dinka Gujarati Khojki Lao Oromo Serbian Tajik Urdu
Azari Calabrese Dutch Hebrew Kinyamulenge Luganda Pashto Shanghainese Tamil Vietnamese
Azerbaijani (Azeri Turkish) Cantonese Dzonkha Hindi Kinyarwanda Malayalam (Kerala) Persian Shilluk Thai Yiddish


Cebuano Farsi Indonesian Kinyankole Mandarin Polish Slovenian Tigre  
Bhutanese Czech Filipino Italian Kirundi Marathi Portuguese Somali Tigrigna  

(Please note this list changes over time based on interpreter availability)

How much does it cost?

  • Contact us for fee details
  • Interpretation services are paid for by the organization requesting the service, not the non-English-speaking client
  • Costs are based on a fee schedule. You can book an interpreter by the hour, half-day, full-day, week, or other arrangement to meet your needs
  • Interpretation and translation services are supported by the United Way of the Capital Region

How can I become an interpreter?

If you are proficient in English and another language(s) or dialect(s), have experience interpreting in a professional setting, and have flexibility during the day, you may qualify to become an interpreter. To learn more about the interpreter role and how to apply, please visit our Employment Opportunities section.

Contact information

For general information, or to book an orientation session or an interpreter, please contact:

Intake Team Phone: 780.448.2627


“An Eretrian father requested a speech therapist for his daughter at school. When I interpreted for him and the school nurse, we were able to determine that it wasn’t speech therapy they were seeking but additional exercises to learn English more proficiently. Once the real issue was determined, the school and family were able to move forward positively."

–Anonymous interpreter

“An elderly woman recovering from a stroke was having trouble communicating with her medical care professionals and family members. As her interpreter, I quickly realized she was mixing up her three languages (German, Russian, and Polish), so I decided to use pictures to help facilitate the conversations. After the interpretation sessions, the woman, her family, and her health care providers were better able to communicate with one another and she continued successfully with treatment.”

–Anonymous interpreter


Interpretation Services: Information in Amharic Interpretation Services: Information in Arabic

Interpretation Services: Information in Cantonese Interpretation Services: Information in French

Interpretation Services: Information in Mandarin Interpretation Services: Information in Somali

Interpretation Services: Information in Spanish Interpretation Services: Information in Vietnamese