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Bilingual Services

​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.

Requesting Service in Non-English Languages

When seeking state services, you have the right to ask for someone to help you in your native language at no cost to you.  A department may request a family member or minor 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.  The department should follow up with a certified employee to ensure the person was satisfied with the bilingual services they received.   A certified bilingual employee or professional interpreter should always be used to ensure effective communication between the department and the person services.

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, and Vietnamese languages.  If the person does not speak one of these languages, they are invited to 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.

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 they develop a plan to correct any they find.  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.

2016-2017 Language Survey and Implementation Plan Report (PDF)

The Language Survey is due October 1 of every even numbered year.  If an agency participates in the survey and finds it meets the 5 percent threshold, it must identify 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 the following 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.

State Provision of Bilingual Services

The State of California has bilingual resources available to assist non-English speaking persons in accessing state government information and services.  When information is available in the English language, the law requires each department to provide the same information in any non-English language in which 5 percent or more of the public served by that department requests services during the survey period.  This does not preclude departments from providing bilingual 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 both the right to receive service in a person's language and also 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.

​Bilingual Oral Fluency Examination and Certification

In order to demonstrate qualifications of state employees to provide service in non-English languages, CalHR requires language fluency testing. A test result indicating a language skill equivalent to “2” on the Federal Interagency Language Roundtable’s ILR scale in the areas of listening and speaking establishes fluency certification.

When an employee is certified in language fluency, the department for which that employee works adds the language test results to the ECOS Individual Language Proficiency record. If a department is unable to access the “Language Records” option under the “Associated Records” section of an individual profile, the department should inquire with its designated ECOS representative.

Bargaining Unit Contracts and the Department's Personnel Office should be consulted for information regarding Bilingual Pay Criteria.

Staff American Sign Language (ASL) Examination and Certification

The California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), 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  department determines whether or not an individual's duties meet the Bilingual Pay Criteria and certifies that the requirements have been met. For more information about the ASL examination for State employees only, visit DOR's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services web page.

​Administrative Hearing and Medical Interpreter Program

Government Code Sections 11435.05 through 11435.65 require 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.

Each certified interpreter is 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. Departments 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.  Once certified, interpreters are eligible for placement on CalHR's list of interpreters.

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 before July 1.  Renewal materials are e-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, or 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, which 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

Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act

The 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

  Updated: 2/4/2022
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