Encouraging full participation – the role of translation and interpreting in education

    Attending a school is never easy – even for those who fully understand the language and cultural references of their peers and teachers. Every day, students must navigate a complex system of course schedules, exam requirements and grade expectations, not to mention peer pressure and learning in social situations. 

    Imagine the complexity of the same requirements if you suddenly had to go to a public school in another country without any knowledge of such reference points. Because students and those who support them need all the help they can get to make sense of everyday classroom reality, school districts around the United States rely on professional language services to help families from other countries such as Haiti.




    Encouraging full participation

    When we consider our own school experiences, including the role of sports teams, attendance policies, and grade reports, it becomes apparent that education systems reflect deeply held cultural values. From proper attire to homework and school lunches, immigrant families must quickly get on board to understand the offerings and services of schools.

    Given the vast differences among international education systems, translators and interpreters therefore not only have to address language barriers, but must help overcome cultural barriers as well. The emphasis on individual discovery for every student in U.S. schools may be at odds with educational models in other countries that use approaches such as rote learning.

    As a result, immigrants often feel overwhelmed by the expectations of student achievement and parental involvement in American school systems. Linguists need extensive knowledge of the source and target culture to help make sense of school communication.

    “Schools play a key role in helping to integrate children into a new environment, but they need culturally appropriate communication that encourages full participation. - Our work goes far beyond transferring words into another language – T&I services in education require in-depth bicultural understanding to find the most suitable phrasing and terms.”
    Marleen Julien, Founder of Creole Solutions.

    Enriching School-Parent Engagement

    The need for such bicultural background information also means that the language translation process cannot easily be automated. While recurring messages, such as closure notices etc. can be reused, translation and interpreting tasks in educational settings typically go far beyond transferring words into another language. The following three areas highlight how the services of Creole Solutions help to improve the communication between schools and students’ families to promote engagement.


    School websites

    If you think of your own experiences with local schooling, whether as a parent or in a different capacity, you might discover just how difficult it is to explain educational tracks and graduation point systems. Administrators know how long it takes to assemble the pages of a school website that includes educational vision statements and descriptions of curricular activities, which are closely tied to state graduation requirements.

    Generally designed to communicate the range of services and choices offered by an institution, school websites only make sense in another language if the translators are familiar enough with all details of schooling to create culturally meaningful equivalents. As an example, the concept of “extracurricular activities” is less common in other countries and may require some explanation.


    Curricular materials

    Subject-specific course descriptions and examination materials pose a comparable challenge – a literal translation is often inadequate to achieve the desired results. Instead, Haitian Creole translators find themselves defining more precise terminology within the context of working with U.S. educational materials.

    example, a “bar graph” is called a "diagramme à barres" in French, which resulted in the equivalent Creole expression “dyagram a ba”.

    The team was dissatisfied with the Creole term “graf ba” in mathematical instruction materials and ultimately chose to replace it with “dyagram an kolòn” for greater clarity.


    IEP reports and parent materials

    While not every school is able to offer a bilingual curriculum, Haitian parents, like any other parents around the world, want to make sure their children are performing well enough in class to prepare for future careers. Educators do their best to communicate with their students’ families by issuing grade reports and developing special curricular plans for youth who must work extra hard to match the academic performance of their peers.

    In some cases, learning disabilities may not have been diagnosed because the foreign school system didn’t have the necessary resources. In addition, teachers must take any trauma and violence a child may have experienced before coming to the U.S. into consideration.

    An Individualized Education Program or “IEP” is a learning plan developed for a student by a team of educators to accommodate special requirements. Such plans may be written in complex language, yet must be clear enough that parents can fully participate in the relevant discussions with the help of qualified translators and interpreters. Consistent terminology is especially important to help clarify special needs and the corresponding solutions.



    Education as the best path forward

    Allowing families to take full advantage of educational offers provides the best opportunity for integration. In many cases, children and adolescents learn English faster than older family members and can help make sense of the new culture.

    Qualified language services play an important role in this process by facilitating the communication flow between schools and students. Ultimately, the goal is to empower new immigrant families to make full use of the available services and to actively cooperate with educators in the process.


    Creole Solutions provides qualified language services to school districts around the U.S.



    Related Posts

    Like What You See?

    Order Translation