Show others you speak their language with a special patch for your uniform

This summer, Scouts from across the globe will descend on the Summit Bechtel Reserve for the 24th World Scout Jamboree. (Visit wsj2019.us to learn how to join this global celebration.) For nearly two weeks, the West Virginia hills will ring with the sounds of dozens of languages, and the most popular Scouts in camp may well be those with good language skills. Many of those Scouts will be sporting interpreter strips on their uniforms to simplify multilingual meetups.

What is an interpreter strip?

It’s a small patch indicating that the wearer knows a language other than English. The language he or she speaks appears on the patch in that language — “Español” for Spanish, “日本語 for Japanese, etc. — so speakers of that language can easily spot a willing interpreter.

Do you have to be fluent to wear an interpreter strip?

Not entirely. However, you must be able to carry on a five-minute conversation in the language, translate a two-minute speech or address, write a letter in the language and translate 200 written words from the language.

Who can wear an interpreter strip?

Any youth or adult who meets the requirements listed previously.

Who determines whether a person qualifies for an interpreter strip?

The unit leader is the best option, although if he or she doesn’t speak the language, it makes sense to involve a native speaker or a language teacher. A simple form to use is available at go.scoutingmagazine.org/interpreterform. Note that this form doesn’t have to be turned in to purchase an interpreter strip at the Scout shop.

For which languages are interpreter strips available?

Cantonese (No. 404), Dutch (No. 393), French (No. 391), German (No. 392), Greek (No. 405), Hebrew (No. 18039), Italian (No. 400), Japanese (No. 406), Portuguese (No. 401), Russian (No. 402), Simplified Mandarin (No. 407), Spanish (No. 395), Traditional Mandarin (No. 408), Vietnamese (No. 409), American Sign Language (No. 18025) and Morse code (No. 615120).

American Sign Language and Morse code? How do those work?

The requirements are the same as those listed previously for sign language, except that you don’t have to write a letter in the language. For Morse code, you must be able to carry on a five-minute conversation, correctly copy a two-minute message (in other words, write it down as it’s transmitted) and send a 25-word written document, all at a speed of at least five words per minute.

Where is the patch worn?

Centered just above the Boy Scouts of America strip on the uniform.

Can someone wear more than one interpreter strip?

No. You can earn more than one interpreter strip, but you can wear only one at a time. If an interpreter strip is not available in a particular language, they may be ordered through National Supply as long as at least two are ordered.

2 Comments

  1. Good afternoon, I am writing regarding the wearing of the interpreter strip on uniforms. I read with interest that no matter how many interpreter strips that a person has earned, only one may worn on a uniform. I would like to know who made this decision and why? The purpose of the strip would be to alert a non English speaking overseas Scout/Scouter that you are at least conversant in that person’s own language. Given the large amount of overseas Scouts who will be at WJ, this is one of the rare events in which the interpreter strip would come in handy. What is wrong with wearing more than one? Is someone in Texas concerned that there will be people loading up on them like the people I see who wear 18-20 square knots (actually the most that I have seen on a uniform shirt was 28)? Personally, in addition to English, I speak Spanish, Creole (Haitian variety), and Latvian. What exactly is wrong if I were to wear all 3 of them I am at the WJ next year? The Latvians will all be English speakers. I know them, no problem. But I do know that some of the Haitians are weak in English and could use some help. Actually I am unaware of the existence of Creole strips and I have a Latvian one, the old red style. Otherwise, your article on Interpreter Strips was well written, informative, and useful to anyone who wonders what they are. Thanks for your time, WWW, YIS, David Rohlfing, Southbury, Conn., 50+ years

  2. I echo the previous comment. Is this a formal change to the BSA Guide to Awards and Insignia? If so, it is not indicated on the current scouting.org online version. Will it be coming out in a future version of the Guide? If so, shouldn’t the Scouting Magazine article have been more specific that this constituted a change to guidance?

    I’m not certain for the reason behind the change. Interpreter strips contribute to international fellowship among Scouts; I would think that should be encouraged. This is the first time I’ve heard of the BSA discouraging Scouts from taking credit for their accomplishments via patches on uniforms.

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