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As the population of patients with limited English proficiency increases throughout English-speaking countries, health care providers often need translator services. Language-focused smartphone apps are a useful addition to a clinician’s toolkit.



According to the 2015 US Census Bureau, more than 60 million individuals—about 19% of Americans—reported speaking a language other than English at home, and more than 25 million reported their English-speaking ability as less than “very well.” The top five non-English languages spoken at home were Spanish, French, Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese, encompassing 72% of non-English speakers. 1,2

In the health care sector, translator services are essential for providing accurate and culturally competent care. Current options for translator services include face-to-face interpreters, phone-based translator services, and translator apps on mobile devices. In settings where face-to-face interpreters or phone-based translator services are not available, translator apps may be a reasonable alternative.


Preset medical phrase translator apps require the user to search for or find a question or statement in order to facilitate a conversation. With these types of apps, a health care provider can choose fully conjugated sentences, which then can be played or read back to the patient in the chosen translated language. Within this group of apps, Canopy Speak and Universal Doctor Speaker are highly accessible, since both apps are available from the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores and both are free.

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