Education, much as communication, are an essential part of our life. No matter what language we speak, we need to be able to express our thoughts, needs, gratitude or demands. When it comes to education, the language should not be a barrier. As Patricia Ryan says in her TED talk – Don’t Insist on English – the language should not be a barrier to education. We shall not discriminate students based only on the language they speak or don’t.
Hence, comes the role of the interpreter in education. This is the person who helps children adapt to the school process and assists their family when dealing with the school authorities. Here are a few examples of how important interpreters in education are and why English should not be a barrier.
When English Should Not be a Barrier
There are nearly 5 million children in the USA who have limited knowledge of English that affects the level and quality of education they can get. As per the Civil Right Act there shall be no discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in the operation of any federally assisted programs. Hence, the schools shall try to facilitate the learning process for all students while supporting mastering the English language. Here are two of the most common services that schools can use:
- In person interpreting
In person interpreting is by far the most efficient method of interpreting in any situation. It is no wonder that it is the best solution for the classroom. Not only will the interpreter benefit from being in the actual setting and being able to read facial expression, etc., but the student will be able to build a personal relationship with the interpreter. It will help the students feel at ease and advance in the learning process quicker.
- Over the phone interpreting
This service is more useful when it comes to contacting the family of a student who doesn’t speak English. This is done when a meeting needs to be set up with family to discuss school issues. Since the interpreter is not physically present and cannot count on body language or see the overall situation in the room, it is not recommended for in-class interpretation or for larger meetings. It still remains a wonderful solution for short talks and for setting up meetings.
The Australian Example of Interpretation in Education
The importance of interpretation and translation in education is recognized not only in the United States but all over the world. A good example of how this process is implemented is to look to the Australian government. On the website of the Department of Education, there is detailed information about the benefits of translation and interpretation in education, as well as practical advice on how to work with an interpreter or find one. There is a special Common Use Agreement that identifies the professionals who are authorized to work under this program, which makes things much easier.
Very useful are the tips on how to work with an interpreter in such a setting. Among the most important ones are:
- Allow more time for the meeting, since it will take about twice as long compared to a meeting without interpretation.
- Do not expect the interpreter to omit part of the conversation, they will interpret everything said by both parties.
- Speak directly to the person. Do not address the interpreter – they are there to facilitate the conversation, not to participate in it.
- Speak in the first person. Do not use phrases such as: “Ask her/him/them…”
- Speak slowly and make reasonable breaks. It is ok to say 2-3 sentences in a row and then let the interpreter render them in the target language.
Follow the tips above if you are working with interpreters for the first time (even if it is not in an educational setting) and you will see that the process will go smoothly and efficiently.
Helping Students with Specific Needs
There is also another very important role of interpreters in the system of education and that is helping students with hearing impairment.
There are many organizations dealing with this issue and providing support to both schools and students. The National Association of Interpreters in Education, NAIE, is one of them. Their goal is to promote professional excellence in the field and strive to be as helpful as possible to all interested parties. There is an option to become a member against a certain small fee and participate in different trainings, workshops or attend the annual conference of the association.
All in all, the role of the interpreter is to facilitate the educational process in the school setting. The help can be in two directions:
- Facilitate communication between the student(s) and the teacher
- Facilitate communication between the student(s) and their classmates
Usually, there is an Individualized Education Plan prepared for the student that is to be followed.
The role of the interpreter is to not only convey the words between the participants in the communication process, but they also need to make sure that the goal of the lesson is clear and that all important aspects are properly understood. The interpreter in this case helps fostering social interaction and assists the student with hearing impairment in blending with their classmates.
The role of the interpreter in this setting is important not only for the educational advancement of the student but also for their personal development.
Interpreters play a very important role in our society. In addition to the common and well-known business interpretation services, there are many more fields in which translation and interpretation are not only useful but essential and education is one of them. Therefore, if you are wondering whether this profession is for you or if there is a good realization, don’t. Translators and interpreters will always be needed and the developing technology is only assisting them and not replacing the human factor at least in the nearest future.