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FAQ for Clients

Q: Who can submit a project for translation or interpretation?

A: We welcome non-profit organizations or other agencies that work with multilingual populations and may not be able to afford professional translation services. We’ve also provided translation services for U of M faculty and staff from a variety of departments and schools within the University.

If you feel unsure about the nature of your translation request, please email us at for further assistance. We will try our best to answer any questions you may have.

Q: Is there a charge for this service?

A: No, all work is done on a volunteer basis.

Q: What kind of documents can be submitted?

A: Here are a list of some of the types of translations we prioritize:

  • Nonprofit efforts, social justice efforts
    • ex) social, local food banks, centers for underprivileged individuals
  • Translations that further a client’s understanding of a personal history, used for personal and non-legal/official means
    • ex) adoption papers used to further understand a child’s history, birth certificates used to answer client’s questions on family heritage, student or professors’ projects in which translations are credited

Since our translations are provided on an unofficial basis, they should not be used for any legal or official purpose. We are unable to accept requests for any binding legal documents. We will also generally refuse requests for the translation of medical records.

Here is a list with types of documents that we are unable to accept:

  • Legal documents and other high-risk documents
    • ex) birth certificates, marriage certificates, documents dealing with legal processes such as incarceration and immigration

If we are unable to accept your project, we will help you find alternative options.  

Thank you for your understanding!

Q: Can you provide certified translations?

A: Unfortunately, no. Since all of our translators work as volunteers, we are unable to provide any certification or warranty for our translations. 

Q: I have a tight deadline for my project. Can I still use the Language Bank?

A: We will do our best to accommodate deadlines, but we can’t promise that your request will be filled within a short time frame, or before a hard-and-fast deadline. It takes time to match a translator with each project, and because our translators are volunteers they may not be able to devote enough time to the Language Bank to complete a project within a short time period. Additionally, the ease with which we are able to find a volunteer varies throughout the academic year. It is more difficult to find volunteers to work during the busy exam periods at the University, and during the summer when many volunteers travel or have other responsibilities.

Q: What languages does the Language Bank offer?

A: At present we have over 20 languages represented in our volunteer base. If we’re unable to match your project with a volunteer from our database, we can redirect you to professional translators.

Q: What if the Language Bank can’t fulfill my request?

A: We have compiled a list of professional translation services in the Ann Arbor area. Some LRC language tutors are also available to translate on a freelance basis.

Q: How does the process work?

A: When a translation or interpretation request is submitted to the Language Bank, we will send out a description of the project to all of our volunteers who have the language skills required. Those who are interested write back to claim the project. We will then put the volunteer(s) directly in touch with you, so that they can ask clarifying questions about the project and so you can check in with them as needed. Once the volunteer has completed their translation, they will send the translation back to us for proofreading if necessary, or simply send the final copy directly to you.

Q: What are the expectations for Language Bank clients?

A: Participating organizations and individuals should expect to communicate with their volunteer translators to clarify the expectations and requirements of a project. Language Bank and LRC staff will offer whatever support we can, but it helps the translators to be able to contact the author of their original document to understand its context and intended audience better. It is also helpful for the volunteers to get some feedback on their final translation. Many of our volunteers, particularly those who are students, participate in the Language Bank in order to put their language skills to good use. Providing some feedback about how the document is being used and whether it’s serving its purpose helps the volunteers to grow as translators and language students.

FAQ for Volunteers

Q: Who can volunteer for the Language Bank?

A: University of Michigan-affiliated individuals who speak or study a language other than English. We are based at the University’s main campus in Ann Arbor, and our volunteers are all members of the U of M community – students, faculty, and staff. We welcome participants from any school or college, and from the Health System. If you’re not affiliated with the University but you really want to participate, send us an email at

Q: Do I need to know a particular language in order to volunteer?

A: No! We have over 40 languages represented across our volunteer base, and we’re happy to have more.

Q: If I sign up to volunteer, am I committing to work on a project?

A: You’ll never be assigned a project unless you want to work on one. We’ll send out a request to all of the volunteers in our database who speak the required language(s), and see who’s interested in taking it. We understand that our volunteers have many other commitments, so it’s up to you how often you choose to translate.

Q: How often will I be notified about opportunities to work on a translation project?

A: It varies. We notify volunteers about projects as we receive requests. The number of project requests we receive depends on the needs of our client organizations, as do the languages required. We most frequently have projects for Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic, and other languages are more sporadically requested.

Q: What are the expectations for Language Bank volunteers?

A: We expect that you’ll be realistic and honest in representing your skills, and in choosing to commit to a project. We ask that you only take on a translation project if you feel that you have time to complete it promptly and to the best of your ability. We know that circumstances change, but when you accept a project you should do so with the intent to complete it by the specified deadline. We also expect that you will take the project seriously and provide the best quality work you can while keeping the client’s deadline in mind. Lastly, we expect that you will communicate with the client and with Language Bank staff if you need clarification about any aspect of the project, and to keep us updated on your progress.

Q: What resources are available to me?

A: We have a list of online resources available for volunteers. You’re also free to use any of the materials, including many dictionaries and other reference works, in the LRC’s Media Library located in the lower level of North Quad. [In the past we have facilitated partnerships with faculty members and volunteers, which we hope to expand in the future.