National Patient Participation Week 2023: Language services for the NHS

5-9 June 2023 is National Patient Participation Week and, as a language services provider to the NHS, we wanted to highlight the vital role our interpreters and translators play in empowering patients who don’t speak English fluently/confidently.

As NHS England says:

“Evidence tells us that supporting patients to be actively involved in their own care, treatment and support can improve outcomes and experience for them, and potentially yield efficiency savings for the system through more personalised commissioning and supporting people to stay well and manage their own conditions better.”

NHS England has made a commitment to become much better at involving patients (and their carers) by:

  • giving them the power to manage their own health and make informed decisions about their care and treatment;
  • and supporting them to improve their health and give them the best opportunity to lead the life that they want.

When it comes to making informed decisions and taking control of their own health, patients need to be able to fully understand the information and advice they are being given and this is where we come in for non-native speakers.

The Language Shop (tls) is the exclusive provider of fully managed language services (including spoken language, BSL interpreting and translation both remotely and face-to-face) to several NHS Trusts. As a social enterprise, we have social values around patient care and access at our core and our years of experience in the public sector means we also understand the pressures NHS staff are under. That’s why we ensure that, when an interpreter is needed, both staff and patients have instant access to the right people with the right skills and languages via things like our innovative on-ward tablet-based interpreter booking system.

We also build patient feedback mechanisms and multi-media patient communication into our NHS contract work to maximise their involvement not just in their care but also in their language support.

Want to find out more about our work with NHS Trusts? Get in touch.

June 2023 dates for your diary

Language and cultural calendar snapshots

4th – Pentecost

Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit appearing to Christ’s Apostles and other followers while they were celebrating the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot. Celebrants pray all night and feast the following day – overindulgence is encouraged!

22nd  – UK Windrush Day

Marking the 75th anniversary since the famous ship’s arrival to UK shores, this day honours the contribution of Caribbean migrants to this country, and raises awareness of the scandal where so many have in recent years been illegally deported and stripped of their rights in this country.

24th – Litha

Litha is the Pagan and Wicca name for the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Those celebrating believe that faeries cross over to our realm and offer blessings. It is also a time to rejoice in the abundance of early summer. Traditionally, fires were lit to encourage the sun in its journey and to welcome the second half of the year.


This month’s dates at a glance



4 –      Pentecost, Orthodox Christian

Trinity Sunday, Christian

8 –      The Feast of Corpus Christi, Catholic Christian

12 –    The Apostles’ Fast, Orthodox Christian

16 –    Feast of The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Catholic Christian

Martyrdom Of Guru Arjan Dev, Sikh

24 –    Litha, Wicca and Pagan

Nativity Of Saint John the Baptist, Christian

27 -1 Jul – Hajj, Islam

28 – Waqf Al Arafa, Islam

29 – Feast of Saints Peter And Paul, Christian

29 -2 Jul – Eid Al-Adha, Islam

 Awareness and events

4 –      International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

10 –    Global Wellness Day

11 –    Race Unity Day

12 –    World Day Against Child Labour

12-18 – Men’s Health Week

15 –    World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

18 –    Autistic Pride Day

Father’s Day

19-25 – Refugee Week

20 –    World Refugee Day

21 –    Summer Solstice

22 –    UK Windrush Day

26-30 – School Diversity Week

Rare Language Fact File: Taushiro

Native to: The Peruvian Amazon

Number of native speakers: Thousands once spoke his language, now he's the only one.

Spoken by: The Taushiro tribe

Learn some: There is only one speaker of Taushiro left, but if you were to meet him, you could greet him with ‘uñuntero’, which is how you announce your friendly arrival.

Interesting facts:

  • The story of the Taushiro is tragic but familiar. The tribe resisted invasion and attempts to enslave them by various foreign and Peruvian interests, by moving deeper into the jungle, hiding and protecting their settlements with traps. By the end of the 20th century, almost no one from outside the tribe had seen them or heard their language, but they were unable to hold out against disease and encroachment on their jungle by outsiders, and there remains only one Taushiro.
  • In 2017, it was made official: there was a solitary speaker of Taushiro, who had nursed his brother as he lay dying from malaria, knowing that he was losing the last person with whom he would every speak his native tongue again. The speaker’s name is Amadeo García García and he is now in his 70s. You can watch an interview with him here.
  • Taushiro has a very simple numbering system, which only goes up to ten. Speakers would indicate numbers by holding up their fingers and saying the corresponding word: 1. Washikanto; 2. Ashini; 3. Washiunweantu; 4. Nekenene; and 5. Ukontawa. For numbers higher than ten, they would simply say ‘ashintu’ and point to their toes.

The Language Shop provides support in any language you may need, including many of the rarer ones. Please speak to your account manager about your requirements.

Celebrations Around the World: Hajj

When: 27 June-1 July 2023.

What: Hajj is a pilgrimage made by Muslims during the sacred and twelfth month of Dhul Hijjah.

Why: Making the pilgrimage is a requirement of all Muslims who are able, physically, economically and otherwise, at least once in their lives. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and is undertaken to bring pilgrims closer to Allah.

How: Approximately 2-3m Muslims gather each year for Hajj, though numbers have been limited by the Saudi Arabian authorities during the post-Covid era. Hajj has 18 steps for worshippers to follow and lasts over five to six days, with pilgrims walking between 5 and 15km every day around Mecca in Saudi Arabia. While it is a requirement only to make the pilgrimage once, Muslims are permitted to repeat the experience, provided it is done with the sole aim of coming closer to Allah.

We always love to hear from customers about their own celebrations. Please get in touch if you have observed any of June’s festivals and would like to share stories or photos with us!

Meet The Team: Abdul Kahar, English, Bengali Sylheti and Dhaka Interpreter

Every month, we introduce you to one of our team. This month, meet Abdul Kahar, one of our interpreters working in English, Bengali Sylheti and Dhaka.

  1. Tell us all about the role you do for TLS

My official role is freelance Bengali Sylheti/Dhaka interpreter, but I feel we do cultural/religious knowledge and insights.

  1. What's been your favourite project at TLS?

My favourite work is interpreting with family therapists affiliated with Children’s social services, which I do regularly.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge?

I once had to challenge an incident of prejudice from a professional at a conference meeting. I once attended a child protection case conference in another borough and a social worker kept making inappropriate comments about a child’s parent to me. The first time I said I don’t need to hear this as I’m only the interpreter, but they kept on. Then I said if they continued, I would have to let the independent chair of the meeting know. This helped and they stopped. I was worried they might have taken it personally and reported me for some other reason, thankfully they didn’t.

  1. If you didn’t do your current job, what would you like to do?

I would have liked to be either a counsellor/therapist or a football presenter, which leads to the next answer...

  1. Tell us something interesting about you.

During the last Football World Cup I co-presented a football show on Bangladeshi Television channel live. I love football and have a very good knowledge of the game, players and statistics, so a friend recommended me for this show, which was running for the whole tournament, every day at 5pm. It was a live programme talking about the beautiful game in Bengali and English, switching languages back and forth.

I thought I would be nervous, but I enjoyed it so much I looked forward to going in every day and doing my research whilst still doing the day job.

  1. If you could meet someone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Bobby Moore, World Cup winning captain of West Ham FC, an excellent footballer and a great ambassador for the game.

  1. What are your plans for the next 12 months?

My ambition for the near future is to continue working for TLS and work as a Facilitator in Bengali for Caring Dads (for which I’m also trained.) Caring Dads is a perpetrator programme for fathers, offering men who have been violent or abusive support to become better fathers.

If you would like to be profiled, or know someone else who would, please get in touch by emailing

Service under the Spotlight: Face-to-face Interpreting

Each month, we get you better acquainted with a TLS service; when and why you might need it, how to book it and how to make the most of the booking.

You may be new to the world of booking language support, or perhaps you book the same service each time because you don’t know what else is out there, or perhaps you have never considered that something different might work for you – this is for you!

In this issue, we are looking at our face-to-face Interpreting. This is booked via our bespoke booking portal.

It is for you if:

You need to communicate for a prolonged time about something fairly complex.

It is not for you if:

You are in a hurry or making a last minute booking and just want to get quick and basic facts from a situation.

When it works best:

Face-to-face interpreting can be especially useful for establishing trust with a service user, particularly one you know you will see on more than one occasion.

Tips to get the most from your booking:

  • Share all the details you can before the booking takes place; eg what you want from the meeting/appointment, any problems that may arise
  • At the beginning of the booking, introduce everyone and, if it’s the first time your service user is meeting the interpreter, ensure that they understand the interpreter is there to convey what you are saying and not provide advice or emotional support
  • Speak clearly and avoid jargon, and pause regularly to allow the interpreter to speak to your service user.

If you would like to know more, call our bookings team for guidance and support on 0808 175 1230.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023: Supporting interpreters working with vulnerable people

This week (15-21 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 and this year’s focus is on anxiety.

As a leading language services provider to the charity and public sector, protecting and supporting the mental health of our interpreters is a key priority for The Language Shop (tls).

We recognise that it is often those working to support vulnerable people to minimise the impact on their mental health, whose own mental health is overlooked. Our interpreters cover a whole range of assignments including within NHS settings such as hospitals and GP surgeries, for Local Authority Child Protection Services, within prison environments and for charities, where those they support may be facing homelessness and distress and are often at their most vulnerable.

It is not surprising that, while incredibly rewarding, the role can also be very stressful and it is vital that interpreters are able to effectively manage anxiety so that they can deliver the best service while protecting their own wellbeing.

There are a number of ways in which we support our interpreters to cope with these challenging situations.

Free access to a quarterly Interpreter Forum

We are acutely aware that interpreting assignments mostly involve working independently and this can have an impact on interpreters’ mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety and isolation. This is exactly why we set up the TLS Interpreter Forum.

A new quarterly online event exclusively for TLS interpreters, the forum facilitates peer-to-peer communication, the opportunity to provide feedback, discuss key topics and meet other interpreters working with TLS.

The date for our next interpreter forum will be announced soon.

TLS Assistance Programme

Our Assistance Programme provides support and advice on mental health, money, wellness, and employment issues; all areas that can create anxiety for our interpreters.

This includes our 24/7 counselling line which can be accessed as many times as required by all interpreters working for TLS, giving them peace of mind that there will always be someone available to help them through mental health issues they might experience.

Ongoing training and CPD

As part of our ongoing commitment to the continuous professional development of our interpreters, with many training events taking place throughout the year, our training often includes protecting the mental health and wellbeing of our interpreters.

A recent example was a personal safety training session for our British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters who work at Springfield Hospital. Find out more on what was covered in the training HERE.

To find out more about working as an interpreter for tls, get in touch HERE.

Rare Language Fact File: Spokane

Native to: Northwestern USA

Number of native speakers: approximately 64

Spoken by: The Spokane Nation

Learn some: ʔa x̣est skʷekʷst (pronounced ‘ahh khest skwekst’) means ‘good morning’. For more, including audio, go to

Interesting facts:

  • Spokane is the name given to a group of indigenous American tribes from this part of the country. It is commonly believed that the word ‘spokane’ means ‘children of the sun’. However, this is not exactly correct: Spokane was the name given to these tribes by white colonisers and is not used by indigenous people to refer to themselves. It seems that, while the word can mean sun, the name is simply a rendering of an 19th century tribal chief’s name into English.
  • We often think of indigenous Americans as nomads, and during the summer they did camp in the mountains, hunting and gathering food. But the Spokane Nation had permanent, underground homes along the Spokane River for the cold winter months.
  • The 19th century Gold Rush brought an influx of white settlers to the area, and in the scramble for land, many important religious and cultural sites were flooded, dug up or built upon. The Spokane people suffered the same fate as many other tribes, ending up on reservations where poverty and its attendant social problems were rife. The Nation was awarded a small amount of compensation by the US government in 1966 and again in 1981.

The Language Shop provides support in any language you may need, including many of the rarer ones. Please speak to your account manager about your requirements.

Meet The Team: Lisa Dyson, Service Coordinator, Quality Assurance Team

Every month, we introduce you to one of our team. This month, meet Lisa Dyson, Service Coordinator, Quality Assurance Team.

Tell us all about the role you do for TLS

We look after assessors who are assessing interpreters’ quality for the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the role is very varied. We do everything from ensuring the assessors’ pay is correct, helping with booking assessors in for assessments, quality checking the assessments and literally anything else the assessors may need. We also have In Person Assessments, which involves role play. For these we have a set script, depending on the complexity level of the assessment, and could either be the English speaking police officer, barrister or something similar. As these need to be recorded on Zoom, I’ve grown comfortable with being on Zoom!

What's been your favourite project at TLS?

I don’t really have a favourite project at TLS so far, as I have been here just under a year. I have so many different parts to my role, so I really do not get bored and the day goes quickly! I am still learning new parts of the role, to be able to take on new tasks, so maybe my favourite just hasn’t happened yet.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge so far is writing up all the notes on the different processes; once I have done a task on my own, I am usually good with being able to pick it up any other time, but as the role can be pretty hectic at times, that’s been the biggest thing for me. I love my notes!

If you didn’t do your current job, what would you like to do?

If I didn’t do my current job, I used to want to be a police dog handler, though I think I am far too old to get on that career path now! Realistically I would love to run a wedding venue for glamping weddings. I love to organise stuff like this; give me a list and stuff to research, an Excel sheet and I am happy.

Tell us something interesting about you.

I once got banned from Pulse radio station for winning too many things! I won all sorts, including a chance to meet and greet the band The Corrs, £600 in Sainsbury’s vouchers and other little prizes. It’s not my fault I knew to a tee when the time to call was going to be and had my mobile ready to call!

After being told I couldn’t enter any more competitions, there was a big one to win a car. Every caller who got through won a spot to pick a car key out of a bucket at the VW garage, so as I was banned my sister and a couple of other friends agreed to go with me if I got through to get a key, the promise being if one of them won I would give them half the money for the car. My mum got her name called but she didn’t have the lucky key - the person after her did, gutted!

If you could meet someone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would love to meet Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode when I go to Paris in June to see them in concert. They are one of my favourite bands, so if someone could make it happen that would be great!

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Just to keep on going as I am, learning, improving and moving up to the Service Plus Co-ordinator role, as I’ve been doing a lot of training with newer staff and taking on a lot of different responsibilities.

Personally, I am hoping I have a better idea of what my retirement could look like. We are going to France to see if there is the possibility of us living over there eventually and would love to have something exciting to look forward to for when the time comes.

If you would like to be profiled, or know someone else who would, please get in touch by emailing

Meet The Team: Sonia Davda, TLS interpreter

Every month, we introduce you to one of our team. This month, meet Sonia Davda, one of our interpreters who works in Gujarati, Urdu, Hindi and English.

Tell us about the role you do for TLS.

As someone originally employed as an interpreter, I have been able to develop and grow in TLS. Not only do I assist the patients in bridging the linguistic gap between them and the health professionals in Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu, I also assist with ACE assessments in the dementia memory clinic and support the doctors and nurses in creating the reports of the patients. Working at TLS has allowed me to combine my passion for languages with my desire to support those in need of mental health care.

What's been your favourite project at TLS?

I would say that dementia is my main focus of work with the memory clinic. As someone who has seen the impact of dementia first hand through my mother's experience, I am passionate about finding ways to improve the lives of those affected by this disease. Through my work with the memory clinic, I have had the opportunity to learn more about the latest research, treatments and care strategies for dementia. In turn, using the knowledge learnt to help improve the lives of patients has been extremely rewarding for me.

What has been your biggest challenge?

One challenge has been balancing the demands of interpreting with the need for quality patient care. As an interpreter, it can be difficult to maintain a neutral position while still conveying accurate information to both patients and doctors. However, by building strong relationships with patients and actively listening to their concerns, I am better able to support them in navigating the health care system. It is my immense pleasure and privilege to be working with extremely professional and caring professionals, and I have built a great rapport with them.

If you didn’t do your current job, what would you like to do?

If I didn't do my current job, I would love to become an interior designer. Designing my own home and Zen garden has been a passion of mine, and I find it extremely fulfilling to create a space that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Such work would allow me to use my creativity, attention to detail and problem-solving skills to make a meaningful difference in people's lives - just like I am in my current job!

Tell us something interesting about you.

One interesting thing about me is that I have a passion for fusion cooking and art and craft. I enjoy learning about the traditional methods and techniques used in Indian cuisine and experimenting with different flavours and spices. In addition, I find great joy in creating unique pieces of art and craft, such as handmade gift bags, greeting cards, artificial floral displays, decorating mirrors, candles. Creating “Best from waste” is my passion. When I'm not cooking or crafting, you can find me with my nose buried in a historical novel. I love exploring different time periods and immersing myself in the cultures of the past. I also enjoy penning down my philosophical thoughts in the form of poems. Whilst I was in India on my holidays, I learned to play the table, an Indian musical instrument.

If you could meet someone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

If I could meet someone, living or dead, it would be Mahatma Gandhi. As a source of inspiration to me, his unwavering commitment to justice and equality is something that I deeply admire. What I find most impressive about Gandhi is his humility and his humanity. Despite his incredible achievements, he always remained grounded and dedicated to serving others. It would be an honour to meet and learn from such a great leader and advocate for peace.

What are your ambitions for the next 12 months?

Although I am conversant with lots of medicines, I’d like to do a course on medication to enhance my knowledge and also to a do a refresher course in AMPSAR. Finally, food for thought which resonates with Thomas Odem: I have no desire to move mountains, construct monuments, or leave behind in my wake material evidence of existence but in the final recollection, if the essence of my being has caused a smile to have appeared upon anyone’s face or a touch of joy within their then in living - I have made my mark.

If you would like to be profiled, or know someone else who would, please get in touch by emailing