9 Acronyms to Make You Sound Like a Language Industry Expert

Pink letters on a white background used to create acronyms

Nothing is more inescapable in the present-day workplace than the acronym. True, they aren’t embraced by everyone — especially those who think acronyms are elitist, confusing, or just plain unnecessary — but that won’t stop their use. Not unless you’re Elon Musk, of course.

The good news is that the language services industry doesn’t have a ton of acronyms to remember. And whatever you’re feeling about our shortened friends (or foes), it’s good to know what they stand for. Here’s a list of the acronyms in the language services industry you should know.

1. ACA: Affordable Care Act

Also know colloquially as “Obamacare,” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a law passed in 2010 that reformed the healthcare system to make health insurance more available and affordable for more people.

How does this affect language access? Excellent question!

Section 1557 is the nondiscrimination provision of the ACA. It strengthens language access laws and works in tandem with laws (such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act) already in place. The law prohibits “discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities.” In part, this means that healthcare entities receiving federal funds need to take reasonable steps to provide language services (interpreters, translated documents, etc.) to individuals who do not speak English.

More on the requirements of Section 1557 can be found on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

2. LSP: Language Service Provider

A language service provider is a company that provides — you guessed it — language services. The services offered could range from on-site or on-demand interpreting, to document translation, transcription, and language assessments.

CLI is a perfect example of a language service provider, or LSP.

3. ASA: Average Speed of Answer

If you’re at all familiar with contact center analytics, this one won’t get by you. The average speed of answer, or ASA, is the time it takes for an operator (also referred to as a customer service representative, or CSR) to answer a call. Most LSPs funnel their calls through a call center staffed with live operators, interpreters, or a combination of both, so the ASA is a metric important to LSPs and their clients.

4. CMI: Certified Medical Interpreter

A certified medical interpreter (CMI) is an individual who has taken and passed a written and/or oral credentialing exam that evaluates the individual’s knowledge and skill set in the field of medical interpreting.

Certification can come in the form of a language-based exam (certifies the individual’s language-specific skills in a healthcare setting) or an interpreting skills–based exam (certifies the individual’s knowledge of interpreting ethics, best practices, and protocol in a healthcare setting) or both.

There are two main certification bodies for a CMI certification: Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI).

Related: Interpreters Gain Recognition, Advantage with CCHI Certification

5. HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

Signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulates how an individual’s personal medical information can be used. Any healthcare provider (amongst other covered entities) who transmits health information must follow a strict set of guidelines to protect personal health information, ensure its confidentiality, and make sure measures are put in place (physical, administrative, and technical safeguards) to maintain compliance at all times.

Since interpreters and translators often work in healthcare, it’s imperative they follow HIPAA rules and stay up to date on yearly HIPAA certification.

6. IVR: Interactive Voice Response

When you call your pharmacy and are connected to an automated voice system asking you to press 1 to refill your prescription, 2 to speak with the pharmacist, or 3 for pharmacy hours, you’ve just interacted with an IVR system.

IVR, or interactive voice response, is software used to route a caller to an automated, interactive system instead of (or before) connecting to a live operator. In the language industry, customers can often choose to use IVR technology to make connecting to an interpreter even quicker in their most commonly requested languages.

7. LEP: Limited English Proficient

“Limited English proficient” describes an individual who does not speak English at all, or who does not speak English very well.

In 2017, there were over 66 million people living in the U.S. who spoke a language other than English at home. Of the 66 million people, over 25 million spoke English less than very well. One could describe the latter as having limited English proficiency, or as an LEP individual.

8. OPI: Over-the-Phone Interpreting

OPI gets used a lot in the language industry, so it’s an acronym you’ll see more than the rest (aside from VRI, but we’ll get there). It stands for “over-the-phone interpreting,” which is a mode of on-demand interpreting where a member of an organization communicates with an LEP individual through an interpreter over the phone.

Related: In Healthcare, When Are Video Interpreters Preferable to Telephone Interpreters

9. VRI: Video Remote Interpreting

Video remote interpreting, or VRI, is similar to OPI, but instead of communicating via telephone, the session is conducted over a video connection. The staff member and LEP individual are typically together in person, and they loop in the remote video interpreter to facilitate the conversation.

It’s a great option for people who use American Sign Language (ASL), where a visual component is required (in an educational setting, for example), and/or when multiple people are present.

And yes, we’ll admit — we snuck in a few extra acronyms. Did we miss any others? Tweet at us and let us know!

Interested in putting those acronyms into practice? Contact us! We love to talk shop and would love to help with your on-demand interpreting needs.

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