Interpreters have a very important role in society – they serve as a bridge between two people who speak different languages and facilitate their communication and understanding. In addition to the popular business interpretation services, an interpreter can work in a variety of institutions and settings.
A job that recently started attracting professionals in the field is that of the educational interpreter. The inability to speak English should not be a barrier between children and education so interpreting in educational institutions is quite important.
Educational interpreters facilitate the learning process for children who speak a language different than English and those who are qualified in American Sign Language help deaf or hard-of-hearing students with their studies. Depending on the exact role the educational interpreters have, they need different qualification and/or certification in order to be able to perform their duties.
What is an Educational Interpreter?
The educational interpreter is an important member of the educational team in a given institution. This is the person responsible for the successful integration and development of children who do not use English as their first language for one reason or another. The interpreter becomes an integral part of the education process by facilitating communication between students and their teachers and peers while following the student’s individual education plan.
There are two main types of educational interpreters:
- Interpreters who speak a foreign language – Spanish, German, Chinese, etc. and help students who have this language as their first or mother tongue;
- Interpreters who speak American Sign Language who help students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Regardless of their specialization, educational interpreters need certain qualification and certification in order to be able to successfully do their job and deliver the desired results. Otherwise, they may interrupt the educational process and cause disruption instead of providing help.
Duties and Responsibilities of an Educational Interpreter
Basically, the educational interpreters help students who do not speak English to participate in the educational process without falling behind their peers. They help them learn the language while also following the general school program. ASL interpreters help deaf or hard-of-hearing students to follow classroom lectures, communicate with their teachers and peers.
Educational interpreters transmit the information provided by the teacher in a form understandable by the student. To that end, they need to be proficient in the language (Spanish, German or ASL) and be aware of specific technical terms and jargon. They should be able to translate educational plans and integrate English in the study program of the students.
An important note to keep in mind is that interpreting for kids and young people is much different than interpreting for adults. At this age they develop their cognitive, linguistic and social skills and each adult they communicate with becomes a role model.
The main job of the educational interpreter is to facilitate learning and help each student follow their educational program without letting them fall behind because of their inability to speak English. The overall goal is to maximize the learning experience.
Educational Interpreter Requirements
In order to become an educational interpreter, you need to have a passion for languages and a desire to work with children or young adults. If you believe that this is the career path for you, then you need to invest in:
- Education – a bachelor’s degree is required for educational interpreters. First of all, you have to attend a language program that allows you to master the foreign language you are going to use for your job unless you are born bilingual. A degree in interpretation is also a plus as it teaches you all the necessary skills to become an interpreter. Knowledge of the culture of the respective language is also of great importance. If you are preparing to work with deaf or hearing-impaired students, you need to complete programs in ASL and in sign language interpretation. Depending on the state requirements, you may also need to acquire a teaching instruction qualification in order to work as an educational interpreter. This can be a requirement by a given educational institution as well.
- Experience – most of the educational institutions will require certain experience in order to hire you as an interpreter. You can gain this as an intern or by volunteering in different initiatives.
- Certification – the requirement about licenses, certificates or qualification may vary from state to state and between the institutions. You should check with the state board of education to see what are the specific requirements for a certain job opening.
What Licenses and Certificates do you Need?
To be a certified educational interpreter, you need some specific qualifications and licenses in addition to your bachelor’s or master’s degree. The requirements depend on your exact position, the educational institution and the state where you are going to practice the job.
- To provide educational interpretation in a teaching position, you need to have a teaching license required by each state.
- Some states require educational interpreters to be licensed and to complete regular courses as part of their continuing education.
- Most states require that the educational interpreters have an Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA) certification and maintain a list of those who have successfully passed their examination.
- Some educational institutions have their own exams that grant credentials to the educational interpreters working for them.
There are different organizations that certify interpreters. Depending on whether you are going to work with another foreign language or with American Sign Language, you can get certified by either:
- The American Translators Association which provides certification for interpreters in 24 languages
- The Registry of the Interpreters for the Deaf provides certification for American Sign Language interpreters who want to work in educational institutions
The job of the educational interpreter is still quite new, however, it is gaining popularity. If you have the desire to help children integrate and pass through the educational system successfully it may be the right career for you. To follow the path of the educational interpreter you need to dedicate your time and energy into getting the right education and qualification as required by the state and the educational institution.