‘There is More Joy in Giving:’ Interpreter Marie Louidor on Bridging the Language Gap

‘There is More Joy in Giving:’ Interpreter Marie Louidor on Bridging the Language Gap

Marie Louidor, an interpreter for Catholic Charities Boston’s Community Interpreter Services (CIS), has been helping people to communicate for nearly her whole life. Born and raised in Haiti, Marie grew up speaking both Haitian-Creole, her country’s native tongue, and French, the official language.

To Marie, even as a child, juggling multiple languages was as natural as learning to walk. Today, she is fluent in Spanish, English, and in the process of learning Italian and Portuguese.

“I love to see the relief of a person being able to express himself or herself through me,” she said.

Collectively speaking over 90 languages, the 150 interpreters who work for Catholic Charities Boston’s CIS come from all over the world, united by a shared loved of language and a common desire to help those in need.

As a social enterprise of Catholic Charities of Boston, CIS is the only nonprofit interpreter service provider in the state, investing its revenue directly into Catholic Charities Boston’s programs, from childcare to emergency food assistance to adult education classes.

“Language access is so important in helping our clients with limited English proficiency navigate the daunting immigration legal system. Interpretation helps them to communicate with immigration officials, the courts, their doctors, their child’s teachers, and many state agencies,” said Erin Cahill, Operations Manager of CIS. “It allows them to engage fully in community events, town halls, and public meetings.”

Serving as a bridge between those seeking support and those able to provide it, CIS’ interpreters not only give a voice to Catholic Charities clients, many who are often desperate to communicate their needs, but they also provide support to businesses that need to communicate through language barriers including law firms, public schools, elder care facilities and state and local government agencies.

Among the many organizations CIS partners with is Boston Public Schools, whose staff have used CIS to provide interpretation services to the district for over ten years.

“The CIS interpreters are professional and skillful, and the CIS scheduling team is quick to respond, efficient, and a pleasure to work with,” said Allen Dowling, Director of Translation & Interpretation for Boston Public Schools. “Their interpretation services are used in our many IEP sessions, parent-teacher conferences, public School Committee meetings, and more. In 2021, we used their services for almost 1,000 meetings in various languages.”

The refugees and immigrants Marie works with are primarily from Haiti, Dominican Republic, Central and South America, Africa, Canada, and France; like all CIS interpreters, Marie meets with clients either on-site and in person, through teleconferences, or through providing written translations, depending on the client’s circumstances.

“As the Bible says, there is more joy in giving than in receiving. When I am interpreting, I feel I am giving my clients some joy, helping them to connect, helping to bridge the gap,” said Marie.

Marie’s desire to help those in need arises out of the adversity she herself has endured. In January 2010, Marie’s husband was traveling to Haiti to supervise his construction firm activities when the devastating earthquake hit, killing him and nearly 250,000 others. As thousands of Haitians fled to the United States for safety, many not knowing a single word of English, Marie regularly helped people by offering them free interpretation services, as well as rides to various local institutions such as Boston Medical Center, American Red Cross, food pantries, and Boston Public Schools registration offices for their children.

Today, Marie remains a steadfast “helper” in the world, working with both new and longtime clients, as well as complete strangers who happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Just last week, as she was sitting in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment, she heard a patient struggling to communicate in Spanish with the receptionist and stepped in to help.

“I almost missed my appointment,” she laughed. “But it felt good to help.”

Interpreters are Essential Workers.

Interpreters are Essential Workers.

At the onset of this unprecedented pandemic, misinformation led to chaos and widespread fear. Clear concise communication was essential and Community Interpreter Services made every effort to ensure limited English proficient (LEP) persons and the immigrant population were not left in the dark.

Since the start of pandemic, CIS provided interpreters for over 6,000 LEP persons.

Since March, CIS has translated 236 documents. Many of which related to health and public safety guidelines and urgent information about COVID-19.

As essential workers, CIS interpreters help schools communicate with English language learners and their LEP parents during the shift to e-learning. They also assist health care workers in providing information and care virtually to the vulnerable senior population.

CIS interpreters were especially vital when the Department of Unemployment Assistance switched to telephonic hearings and saw a huge increase in applicants as businesses closed and unemployment numbers rose.

CIS continues to work with the Department of Children and Families, immigration lawyers, and social service programs across the state to reach their clients remotely and maintain access to critical services throughout the pandemic.

For more information on how CIS interpreters can help you communicate clearly, email cis_request@ccab.org

Virtual event interpretation for MIRA’s “Immigrants’ Day”

Virtual event interpretation for MIRA’s “Immigrants’ Day”

On Thursday, May 7th CIS provided 7 interpreters to participate in “Immigrants’ Day,” a virtual event hosted by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, MIRA. The annual advocacy day was held via video this year and with the help of CIS, attendees had the option to listen live in Spanish, Portuguese, or Haitian Creole.

“The interpreters were wonderful to work with and our attendees were so glad interpretation was available. It truly made our event so much more accessible” said event organizer Amira Al-Subaey, MIRA’s membership coordinator. She also commented, “As someone with monolingual family members who are so often left out of events and left to fend for themselves, I am so thankful for your work as interpreters moving us towards language justice.”

Every Spring, MIRA gathers hundreds of immigrants and refugees at the State House to hear from public officials and to advocate for legislation and budget items that are priorities to the immigrant communities. This year’s event consisted of a 45-minute speaking program, followed by 45-minute regional “roundtables” with legislators, co-hosted by MIRA member organizations.

Looking to have Simultaneous Interpretation at your next event or conference? Email CIS today: cis_request@ccab.org.

Interpretation in the time of social distancing: COVID-19 updates

Interpretation in the time of social distancing: COVID-19 updates

Now more than ever, we need clear accurate communication across languages and the role of professional medical interpreters is critical. We partner with trained professionals certified in medical interpretation and fluent in almost 100 languages. In an effort to accommodate requests while adhering to current safety guidelines, we are encouraging all of our customers to request telephonic interpretation as an alternative to in-person. We are also setting up interpreter assignments via video.

We will be lowering our one-page minimum for written translation and waiving expedited fees in order to provide accurate and timely translation for any notice, flyer, pamphlet or any other public safety document.

You can visit the Catholic Charities COVID-19 page to learn more about how the agency as a whole is handling this pandemic.

Check back as this page will be updated regularly! Please reach out to our team at cis_request@ccab.org if you have any questions or concerns. We hope you are all staying safe and healthy.

News & Resources:

MassLive: Two months into coronavirus pandemic, Massachusetts launches unemployment applications in 4 more languages (5/26/20)

Massachusetts announces implementation of CARES Act Unemployment Benefits for self-employed, gig economy, and independent contractors. (4/20/20) Apply HERE.

Updates + Resources from the Joint National Committee for Languages

InterpretAmerica’s COVID-19 message and CSA research report (3/16/20)

American Translators Association Statement on the Coronavirus (3/17/20)

ATA Advocacy: Financial relief for freelancers (3/20/20)

Association of Language Companies: Impact of COVID-19 on freelancers and small companies (3/20/20)

LanguageLine Solutions: Interpretation and translation Civil Rights Laws remain intact (3/17/20)

The Washington Post: Gig workers covered in new Paid Sick & Family Leave Act (3/17/20)

The Hill: Language barriers hamper coronavirus response (3/22/20)

TIME Magazine: Coronavirus patients who don’t speak English could end up ‘unable to communicate in their last moments of life’ (4/15/20)

U.S. News & World Report: Language access issues a barrier during COVID-19 (4/16/20)

The New York Times: Imagine online school in a language you don’t understand (4/22/20)

New Hampshire Union Leader: NH immigrants translating critical information themselves (4/25/20)

We’re Hiring!

Think you’ve got what it takes? Come join our team!

CIS is always looking to expand our pool of professionally trained and certified interpreters and translators in any language. If you’ve completed a training program and are interested in interpreting as an independent contractor with us, please send your resume to cis_request@ccab.org.

See our job requirements below:


Community Interpreter Services (CIS) seeks independent contract interpreters in the greater Boston/Worcester, Massachusetts area fluent in both English and an additional language (including but not limited to: Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Arabic, Albanian, Greek, Russian, Burmese, Cape Verde, Swahili, Urdu, Amharic, Somali, Farsi, Khmer, Chinese Mandarin, and Cantonese, etc.) to work in face-to-face settings with people who have limited or no English proficiency. This is a contract position and actual assigned interpreter appointments will be based upon customer need.

Minimum Qualifications –

  • Must possess a 45 hour minimum interpreter training program certificate in medical, legal, and community or any of the three.
  • Proof of professional experience as an interpreter.
  • Bilingual in English and target language is a must. 
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from country of origin.
  • Solid communication skills and basic computer skills.
  • Must live in Massachusetts or immediate surrounding area.


Community Interpreter Services (CIS) seeks to contract with independent contract translators in state of Massachusetts fluent in English and an additional language (including but not limited to: Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Arabic, Albanian, Greek, Russian, Burmese, Cape Verde, Swahili, Urdu, Amharic, Somali, Farsi, Khmer, Chinese Mandarin, and Cantonese, etc.) to translate documents ranging from the fields of medical, legal, education to the corporate world. This is a contract position and all translation assignments are based upon customer need.

Minimum Qualifications –

  • Proof of professional experience in translating documents.
  • Proof of membership with American Translators Association.
  • Ability to understand texts in the source language and to render them correctly in the target language using a style and register appropriate to the purpose of the text.
  • Thorough knowledge of the institutions, culture, attitudes and practices in the countries where that language is spoken, normally acquired through residence there.
  • Bilingual in English and target language is a must. 

My friend is bilingual, why can’t she interpret? Why can’t I have a friend or family member interpret?

Is it really necessary to hire a professional interpreter if there’s a family member available to interpret?


Family members, friends, coworkers and community members should never serve as interpreters. There are a number of potential risks: loss of confidentiality, inaccurate interpretation, breach of ethics, and legal liability. Using a family member or friend negatively affects everyone: the LEP person’s care or service, the family member providing the interpretation, and your agency or company.

Being an interpreter is a profession, not just a talent. Professional interpreters receive intensive formal training and are bound by the ethical standards of confidentiality and accurate interpreting. Professional interpreters are not just bilingual – they are thoroughly trained to know specialized vocabulary and cultural idiosyncrasies, to remain impartial, and to conduct themselves in a formal manner. These skill sets allow them to confidently handle any type of conversation, including those requiring in-depth comprehension and knowledge where getting it wrong just isn’t an option. If you were in a country where you did not speak the native language, would you want just anyone interpreting for you before you underwent an emergency medical procedure?

What about using my bilingual staff?

Using bilingual staff members may seem like the perfect solution to not using family members or friends and saving money on professional interpretation – but many of the same limitations arise in this scenario.

Bilingual staff members may be fluent in the language but have not received the same specialized training as professional interpreters. Most importantly, there are major conflicts of interest as they oftentimes are not serving the needs of the LEP because they are bound by the interests of their employer. Impartiality is impossible.

Many agencies formally recognize the importance of using only credentialed interpreters. For example, The Atlanta Board of Education recently enacted a new policy that directs all of the state’s public schools to use only trained certified interpreters that are to act as a “neutral party.” It also plainly states, “Schools may not rely on or ask students, siblings, friends or untrained school staff to translate or interpret for parents.”

Using professional interpretation and translation services helps mitigate risk when dealing with LEP persons, particularly in healthcare and legal settings. By not using an interpreter, an agency or provider assumes the risk for the potential loss of confidentiality, misdiagnosis, and/or uninformed consent for treatment or services. This oversight can lead to increase in liability, healthcare or legal costs, and poor health or legal outcomes. Professional interpretation and translation services can decrease the risk of malpractice lawsuits or other litigation that result from a lack of clear communication between LEP and providers.

In order to get the most out of your experience with a trained interpreter, below are some helpful tips:


  • The interpreter will interpret everything you and the non-English speaker say as accurately as possible, without adding information, editing or summarizing.
  • The interpreter will use the first person (“I” – speaker) and the second person (“You” – listener) whenever possible.
  • Should the interpreter encounter difficulty in translating certain words or phrases, she/he will ask for clarification.
  • The interpreter will attempt to communicate the inflection or emotion of your client’s speech.  If the interpretation does not fully reflect the emotional content, the interpreter will try, without editorializing, to state his or her impressions.
  • The interpreter will not advocate for you or your client.
  • The interpreter will withdraw voluntarily from a case if she/he feels unable to be impartial or protect the client’s confidentiality.


  • Before you and the interpreter meet with your client, explain the nature of the appointment to the interpreter. Tell the interpreter what topics you will be discussing and in what sequence. Is there any important information you are trying to find out? What do you hope to accomplish overall?
  • Address questions directly to your clients when you speak (“When did you see the doctor?”) not to the interpreter (“Please ask him when he saw the doctor”).  Even though the client might not understand what you are saying, a great deal of information is conveyed through body language.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, and pause frequently.
  • Remember there is not a word-for-word correspondence between languages. The interpreter might need to use three sentences to interpret what you have said in three words.  Give the interpreter time to present information in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.
  • Encourage the interpreter to ask for clarification if necessary.


Welcome to the new Community Interpreter Services blog! Here you’ll find regular updates from our team including events at CIS and Catholic Charities, news from the interpreter services industry, and featured spotlights on the Catholic Charities social service programs that receive funding as a result of our revenue.

As a social enterprise of Catholic Charities Boston, Community Interpreter Services (CIS) is the only nonprofit interpreter service provider in the state. Profits from CIS are reinvested into the many social service programs Catholic Charities offers for those trying to escape poverty and lead meaningful, productive lives. Catholic Charities is one of the largest social service agencies in the Commonwealth, serving over 165,000 individuals each year regardless of faith, race, abilities, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic class.

Since 1986, CIS revenue has helped to put food on the shelves at our food banks, provide youth mentors to troubled teens, and run an annual summer camp for children from low-income neighborhoods. When you book through CIS 7 times, it assists in stocking a full classroom with school supplies to start off the year. Eleven hours of interpreter services helps fund a Licensed Clinician for family support groups to help guide families struggling with addiction.

While our revenue helps support these programs, the main purpose of CIS is to provide interpreter and translation services to refugees and immigrants, all of whom are from a variety of ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds. With over 30 years of experience in the interpretation industry, CIS has developed unique expertise in delivering professional language services throughout the Commonwealth. We work with corporations and agencies that have diverse customer bases and employee populations to overcome language barriers.

According to The American Immigration Council, immigrants account for 16% of the Massachusetts population. Almost 10% of Commonwealth residents over age 5 have limited English proficiency (LEP), as reported by the Migration Policy Institute in 2016. Throughout the years we have seen the LEP population shift. In the past 10 years, CIS has provided interpreter services to over 100,000 LEP individuals, children, families, and elders – allowing them access to critical services in their native language. Today, we estimate that the majority of the LEP persons we serve are elderly, low-income and among the disabled population.

To learn more about who we serve and how our revenue benefits local communities, watch this space for regular updates and sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay in the loop!