Office of Language Services

General Information

The Department of State's Office of Language Services is the agency responsible for providing language support to the State Department, the White House and other federal agencies. We provide this support through a team of highly-skilled language professionals who specialize in interpreting and translating oral and written communication, respectively.

The Mission of the Office of Language Services of the Department of State is to facilitate communication with non-English speaking governments and people by providing high-level interpreting and translating support to the Executive Office of the President, the Department of State, and other agencies of the United States Federal Government.

The Office of Language Services carries on a tradition of language support for the conduct of foreign policy that dates back to 1789, when it was founded by Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State of the United States of America. Our team of linguists is made up of approximately 20 staff diplomatic/conference interpreters working in a dozen languages and 12 diplomatic translators who work in about 15 different language pairs. The team of translators is supported in turn by 8 professional project managers who manage workflows for in-house and external translations. In addition to the permanent staff, Language Services relies on the services of over one thousand interpreters and five hundred translators who have passed the necessary tests and background checks to be part of our contractor rosters and provide support, as required, in every language required by the White House and State Department for the conduct of U.S. Foreign Policy.

The Foreign Affairs Manual states that interpreting, translating, and other language services are provided by the Office of Language Services (A/OPR/LS) for the White House and for the Department of State, including commissions and corporations under its jurisdiction, and international events or conferences in which it participates. By special written agreement, language services may be provided to other agencies on a reimbursable basis. (6 FAM 1510)

The interpreters and translators of the Interpreting and Translating Divisions of the Office of Language Services are the ears, voice and words of the President, the First Lady, the Vice-President, the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of State and other high-level officials at the State Department and other Departments and Federal Agencies.

In addition to the coverage offered by the Interpreting and Translating Divisions, Language Services provides language coverage for State Department International Exchanges that are carried out on an ongoing basis, including the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau's (ECA) International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program (ATAP), and the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA). These extensive International Exchange portfolios have required the creation of an Assigning Unit that is made up of a team of professionals exclusively dedicated to managing language services assignments for hundreds of exchange programs in dozens of languages every year.

The work of the Interpreting and Translating Divisions and the Assigning Unit is supported by the Administration Unit.