Where do I get additional information?
Please contact the Program Coordinator:

Darouny Somsanith, HCI Coordinator
Telephone: 415-452-5158 | Email: dsomsani@ccsf.edu

Mailing Address: 
City College of San Francisco
Health Education Dept., MU 353
50 Phelan Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94112

What is the Health Care Interpreter Certificate Program?

This is a 16 unit program that trains bilingual and bicultural students to develop the awareness, knowledge and skills needed for effective language interpretation in health care settings.  The HCI certificate is awarded upon successful program completion and is widely accepted for employment opportunities in local hospitals.
This training program is designed for bilingual/bicultural individuals who are interested in facilitating linguistic and cultural communication between patients and health care providers.  This is a competency based training program involving lectures, discussions, simulations, field work and special student projects.  Besides working with the course instructor, students will be working closely with their assigned Language Coach to enhance their linguistic and cultural competencies. Minimal student qualifications include the ability to speak fluently in his/her language of service and an excellent proficiency in English and a commitment to the entire training program which consists of 3 courses.  The three courses (and in the introductory course) are briefly described below.

What are the required classes?


Bilingual students are introduced to the field of interpreting in health care. Required for CCSF's Healthcare Interpreting (HCI) Certificate Program, students are introduced to the California HCI Standards, and explore the roles, scopes and practice of healthcare interpreters. The HCI program will be explained and linguistic proficiencies will be assesed. CSU


Health 80

is an introduction to medical interpreting.   This course is designed to develop a basic awareness, knowledge and skills necessary for language interpretation in health care settings.  At the completion of this course, students will be able to: describe the roles and responsibilities of a health care interpreter; explain the code of ethics involved in medical interpreting; discuss the similarities and or differences between the biomedical culture and student's own culture, acquire a basic knowledge of common medical conditions, treatments and procedures; gain insight in language and cultural nuances in specific communities; have opportunities to explore and develop other knowledge and skills necessary in the art of interpretation.


Health 81

focuses on training bilingual individuals to be integral members of the health care team in bridging language and cultural gaps between patients/clients and health care providers.  Further enhancement of interpreting skills learned in Health 80 covering specialized health care service areas such as genetics, mental health, and death and dying. Emphasis also on the development of cultural competencies in the community.   Upon completion of this course, students will be able to: demonstrate knowledge of managing the flow of the interpreting session and mastering of  these skills through classroom activities and examinations, identify health issues, practices and beliefs of specific ethnic communities, identify strategies and cultural sensitive approaches in working with diverse cultures, demonstrate knowledge of cross-cultural communication., gain a broader perspective in the different health care service areas, increase health care related terminology, identify strategies in self-care and demonstrate skills in the development of a portfolio.


Health 82

consists of field work and classroom simulations focused on application of knowledge and technical interpreting skills learned in Health 80 and Health 81.  Workplace and career interpretation will be explored more broadly. Upon completion of this course, the students will be able to: discuss and demonstrate understanding of the interpreter roles and the scope of practice relative to other health care professionals in the assigned agency., discuss and demonstrate competence in elements of workplace, culture and professionalism: time management, reporting and accountability, maintaining personal and professional boundaries, apply skills learned to the field work setting(s): conflict management, cross-cultural communication, and technical aspects of interpreting, identify specific areas for self improvement needed for interpreting in health care settings.


Once I complete the HCI program, are there other courses to take?

Health 91N: Coaching Healthcare Interpreters
focuses on how to coach emerging interpreters in integrating medical terminology in various languages to their vocabulary, how to create activities that assist the memorization of terminology and how to set up, facilitate and debrief role-plays in which the skills of interpreting are practiced.

Health 91K: Language Access Strategies and Effective Collaboration with Healthcare Interpreters
Language and cultural barriers can impede the health of individuals and can be costly for health systems. This course provides language access strategies and the effective collaboration with interpreters across language and cultural barriers in healthcare settings.


3 HCI Students sitting at table studying


Why is the Health Care Interpreter Certificate important?
The CCSF Health Care Interpreter Certificate (HCI) is widely accepted by hospitals and clinics in Northern California. Upon completion of the program, students will have been comprehensively trained, evaluated and equipped with skills to understand and support patients in their language assistance needs. This protects patients from poorly trained and inaccurate interpretation, thus enhancing healthcare for people who have linguistic barriers.

What are the roles of Health Care Interpreters?

The roles of the HCI are message conveyer, message clarifier, cultural clarifier, and patient advocate. For more information please review the HCI standards at www.chiaonline.org

What kind of job can I get once I complete the program?

Most California Interpreters are HCI's and work as freelancers in a variety of settings; public, private and university hospitals, outpatient clinics, health plans, mental health services, telephone interpreting services, language services agencies, and other small enterprises. They may also work as dedicated interpreters at hospitals or clinics or other medical positions requiring bilingual language proficiencies (such as reception, community liason, research assistant). Others work in additional community settings such as educational institutions.

How much will I earn in this career? 

Salaries of interpreters and translators can vary widely depending on the language, subject matter, skill, experience, education, certification, and employer. In 2010 the median pay nationwide for interpreters and translators was $20.82 per hour or $43,000 a year.

Newswise Logo

Check out this article that discusses the importance of Health Care Interpreters in the field:

Medical Errors Often Result from Language Barriers

How long will the program take?
The program can be completed in 2 semesters.

Are there prerequisites?

There are no prerequisites but there are recommended courses prior to enrollment or during the first semester:

HIT 51 Basic Medical Terminology (1unit)

ANAT 14 Introduction to Human Anatomy and Physiology (4units)

PHYS 12 Introduction to Human Physiology (4units)

These courses may be taken at CCSF; or equivalent courses may be taken at any accredited institution.


What is required of me?
SECOND SEMESTER: HLTH 81 and 82 (Internship in local clinics and hospitals)

When do classes start? 

Classes begin every semester.  Refer to City College Class Schedule for specific dates and times.


How do I get into the program? 

First, you must sucessfully complete HLTH 84: Introduction to Interpreting in Health Care (0.5 unit) course. If admitted to the HCI program, you will need to complete and submit a CCSF admissions application either online, by mail, or in person.  The Admissions & Records office is located in Conlan Hall room E107, 50 Phelan Avenue.  You must have a registration appointment ticket in order to register for classes. 
For more information see “How To Apply”

What languages do I have to speak?


The Health Care Interpreter program has graduated students in 12 different languages since 1997. These include Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Mongolian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietanmese,  and Tigrnya. We can take additional languages when 3-5 students apply in the same semester. We do not offer the program for American Sign Language as their certifications have different requirements.


What if I can't read or write in my language of service?


While literacy is not required for verbal communication, it is difficult for someone who doesn't read or write in their language of service to look up words in dictionarys or glossarys and to do homework in classes. We encourage some level of ability to read and write in language of service in order to sucessfully complete the program.


What if I learned the language of service as a second language? Can I be in the program?

Yes, you can. However, in order to assist people who do not share the same culture, to better understand one another, we recommend a period of living abroad in a country where that language is spoken.


Where will classes be held? 

All classes are held at the Ocean Campus (50 Phelan Avenue) and at Kaiser French Campus.


What time of day are classes offered?

Classes are offered evenings and on Saturdays.


What can I expect to spend? 

City College of San Francisco classes are $46 per unit plus a student health and registration fee each semester. (Community College feesare subject to change.) You can expect to spend approximately $930 total for the Certificate program (including books, cap and gown and graduation fees).  Additional fees may be required for internship sites. Financial aid is available to students who qualify (click here for financial aid information).


When and where do I request a Certificate?

Upon completion of the HCI certificate program, you will complete and submit a Certificate application to Conlan Hall E-107. Applications can be picked up in E107 or in the Link Center (MUB 301).