Bilingual Services - CalHR

Bilingual Services Program

The Bilingual Services Program (BSP) provides oversight and services related to providing language access services as required by state law. Bilingual Services also oversees interpreting as required by law.

State Law

The Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act (Act) became law in 1973 to ensure that individuals seeking state government services whose primary language is not English are not precluded from receiving State of California Services because of language barriers.


CalHR is not responsible for ensuring local governments are compliant.


References: Government Code Sections 7290-7299.8

Language Survey and Implementation Plan

CalHR provides training and technical support to agencies in conducting the Language Survey and Implementation Plan that identifies public contacts and resources available to ensure an equal level of service is being provided to substantial populations speaking non-English languages. Once the survey is conducted, agencies review their results to determine if  they have position or written document deficiencies, and develop a plan to correct those if there are any.  Each agency has a Language Survey Coordinator that is responsible for communicating the requirements of the Act to the agency and for ensuring that a meaningful survey is conducted.  The Language Survey  Coordinator also reports the progress on the implementation plan to CalHR. CalHR prepares a report to the Governor and the Legislature that identifies the results of the survey.  


2012-13 Language Survey and Implementation Plan Report

2010-11 Language Survey and Implementation Plan Report


The Language Survey is due October 1of every even numbered year.  If an agency participates in the survey and finds it meets the 5 percent threshold, it must identfy how it is complying with the Act.  If the agency is found to have position or written document deficiencies, it must submit an implementation plan by October  1 of every odd numbered year.   An agency may receive an exemption for up to five survey  cycles if it demonstrates that it meets the exemption requirements that are defined in the Act.  Agencies that are granted an exemption are not absolved from providing bilingual services to non-English speaking clients seeking services. Training modules on how to complete the language survey are accessible through the Language Survey and Implementation Plan Online System.  Inquiries regarding the language survey  and implementation plan should be sent to


YouTube Video for California State’s Public Contact Employees: Your Responsibilities under the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act.

Language-Access Information for State Human Resource Professionals

The State of California has bilingual resources available to assist non-English speaking persons in accessing state government information and services. The law requires departments to provide the same information that is available in the English languages in the non-English languages of the public they serve when the language survey results comprise 5 percent or more of the contacts as identified in the language survey. This does not preclude departments from providing services if the 5 percent threshold is not met. Departments will determine whether to provide access by use of  certified bilingual employees, interpreters, translated material or other available bilingual resources.


An Interpreter Service Notice or Language Access Poster that explains the right to receive service in a person's language and how to request language assistance should be displayed by all departments in  areas accessible to the public.  Departments can assist by providing bilingual staff certified in the non-English language spoken, or by using other qualified interpreters. Additionally, departments may provide copies of documents, forms, or other written materials, translated into other languages. If a department does not have its materials translated, it may provide an interpreter to explain the information and assist the public in completing any required documentation.


Requesting an Interpreter

A person has the right to request an interpreter in their native language at no cost to them.  A department may request a family member or child to interpret for the person only in an emergency situation, or to obtain non-essential information such as identifying the language that the person speaks. A certified interpreter should always be used to ensure effective communication between the department and the person seeking the interpreter.


Language Access Complaints

If a department has not provided the requested translated materials or interpreter services, the person should request to speak to a manager in charge. Departments are required to have a process for receiving language-access complaints and should have information regarding their process posted in their public offices. If the department is unable to assist, or provide the requested language access, the person may contact CalHR for further assistance.


In addition to each department’s process, CalHR has established an informal language access complaint process. CalHR's process provides the non-English speaking public with the opportunity to bring their complaints to another entity, should they feel they were not provided with adequate language services at one of California’s  departments. CalHR has established a toll-free telephone number to receive language access complaints: 1-866-889-3278. This telephone number will connect the person to a voice recorder where they can leave a message explaining the details of the complaint. Someone from the Bilingual Services Program will follow-up and resolution with the department in question will begin.


These voice recordings contain instructions in the English, Armenian, Arabic, Cantonese, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese languages. If the person does not speak one of these languages, they can contact CalHR's Bilingual Services Program at (916) 324-0970. The Bilingual Services Program will attempt to identify the language the person speaks and locate a qualified interpreter fluent in the native language.


For additional information regarding CalHR's language access complaint process, contact the Bilingual Services Program at (916) 324-0970.


American Sign Language (ASL) Examination and Certification

The Department of Rehabilitation, through its Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Section is the department authorized to conduct the Statewide American Sign Language (ASL) Bilingual Proficiency examination for all department employees. This exam is designed to measure skills in vocabulary, grammar, comprehension, and competency in ASL communication. Cost of the examination to each requesting department is $115.00 for each employee candidate to take the examination. Each State department determines whether or not an individual's duties meet the Bilingual Pay Criteria and certifies that the requirements have been met. Information about the ASL examination for State employees only, can be found at

 Bilingual Oral Fluency Examination and Certification

The bilingual oral fluency examination is administered to State agency bilingual employees only and  is intended to ensure that individuals communicating in non-English languages, in the performance of their job duties possess the requisite skill/proficiency to provide effective communication. The examination is designed to measure skills in vocabulary (commonly used terms and expressions), pronunciation (ability to be understood, enunciation, and clarity of expression), grammar (characteristic systems of words and the grammatical structure of the language), comprehension (ability to grasp significance or information), and resourcefulness (ability to appropriately communicate an idea while retaining intent from one language to another).


The Bilingual Services Program administers bilingual oral fluency examinations to department employees and cost to the department is $115.00. Request for bilingual fluency examinations are made by completing and submitting a Bilingual Examination Request Form. The form requires the employee's department Personnel Office approval.


Payments must be received with the  BILINGUAL ORAL FLUENCY EXAMINATION REQUEST FORM . Once the  form and payment are processed, Bilingual Services Program staff will contact the employee  to  schedule the examination. Employees are notified of their results in writing.  Bargaining Unit Contracts and the Department's Personnel Office should be consulted for information regarding Bilingual Pay Criteria.


 Administrative Hearing and Medical Interpreter Program

Government Code Sections 11435.05-11435.65 requires language assistance be provided to individuals during administrative hearings and medical examinations with State departments. Language assistance is provided by a certified interpreter. Certified interpreters are paid for by the State department conducting the hearing or examination, and not by the individual requesting the service. By law, CalHR is responsible for maintaining the State's list of administrative hearing and medical interpreters and overseeing the Interpreter Program. An Administrative Hearing Interpreter interprets during State department hearings before Administrative Law Judges (Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, Labor Relations Board, etc.)  A Medical Interpreter provides interpreting services at medical examinations conducted for the purpose of determining compensation or monetary award in a civil case.
Certified interpreters are issued a certification badge that is required for verification at all proceedings. The certification badge resembles California identification and driver’s license, and contains a current picture of the interpreter as well as a certification number that is assigned by the State of California. When contracting for an assignment, departments should ask the interpreter for their certification badge. Departments may visit the list of interpreters at Administrative Hearing and Medical Interpreter List and conduct a search by last name, first name, language, certification, county, or city.  Departments are required by State law to use certified interpreters at administrative hearings and medical evaluations. Administrative law judges can provisionally certify  non-certified interpreters only when attempts to find certified interpreters have been unsuccessful.
Departments may also use interpreters who are certified by the Judicial Council ("Court" interpreters) to interpret at hearings and examinations.
In the event that a certified interpreter cannot be present at the hearing or examination, the department shall have discretionary authority to provisionally qualify and use a non- certified interpreter. For medical consultations, the physician must ensure that the use of a provisionally certified interpreter is noted in the record of the medical evaluation. Department should remember that contracting with a non-certified interpreter, or provisionally certifying an interpreter for an assignment, does not allow for the verification of the interpreter’s skill level and may jeopardize the quality of your administrative hearing or medical examination. 



To become an interpreter, candidates must pass a written and oral State Certification Examination. CalHR is not currently offering interpreter examinations. Interpreters interested in obtaining certification to interpret at State proceedings may be certified by taking the court interpreter examination that can be found on the Court Interpreters Program webpage. Once certified, interpreters are eligible for placement on CalHR's list of interpreters. To place an interpreter's name on CalHR's master list of interpreters, email with the interpreter's proof of Court certification.  


A certified interpreter is responsible for carrying and displaying the required interpreter badge at all proceedings. Sharing a certified interpreter badge with a non-certified interpreter for the purpose of  securing an interpreter assignment may be grounds for removal of interpreter certification. 


Interpreters must renew  their certification each year beginning July 1.  Renewal materials are mailed each spring to certified administrative hearing and medical interpreters. Renewal fee is $100 per certification. 

California Court Interpreters

CalHR does not manage or oversee the California Court Interpreter Program. This information is for department reference only.


A court interpreter is an individual that interprets in a civil or criminal court proceeding (e.g., arraignment, motion, pretrial conference, preliminary hearing, deposition, and trial) for a witness or defendant that understands little or no English and speaks a non-English language. Court Interpreters must possess the ability to accurately interpret for individuals and requires a high-level of formal education and training in the non-English language for which they will serve as an interpreter. Court Interpreters utilize an expansive vocabulary, including legal terminology, and must have the ability to communicate with individuals with varying levels of language skill, without affecting the language register of the speaker. Interpreters may also be responsible for translating written documents, often of a legal nature, from English into the target language and/or from the target language to English. For information regarding the Certified Court Interpreter Program, access the Judicial Council's website. 


The California Court Interpreter program regularly offers the California Court Interpreter Examination which certifies interpreters who may then interpret  at administrative and medical proceedings for State departments. Once certified, court interpreters may request that their names be placed on the State master list of interpreters by contacting the Interpreter Program at



Updated 3/9/2015