“The Nuñez family is only one of more than 16,000 families in the Washoe County School District that speak Spanish at home. Each Spanish-speaking household has students who possibly translate for their parents. Schools provide some translation services, but children frequently end up translating instead.Here’s the situation in another family.
Sixty percent of Hug High School students, where Katherine attends, are Hispanic. Despite the availability of translators at the school, each student’s situation is unique. Adult translators who are unaware of individual circumstances may lose just as much information as a student who picks and chooses what to tell his or her parents.
This impacts many schools because not all teachers speak Spanish. Therefore, the need for translators grows as the language is spoken more in Washoe County. Staff who speak Spanish might be asked to drop what they are doing to translate for a teacher or parent. Children are also signed out of school to attend appointments and act as translators for their parents.”
“Eleven-year-old Araceli Marquez knows she is expected to translate when her mother or father attends parent-teacher conferences at school, but that doesn’t mean she enjoys it. She is a fifth grader at Glenn Duncan Elementary School and has been translating for her parents since she can remember.Some Conclusions
‘I guess it’s OK,’ Araceli said. ‘I don’t like it, but I don’t really hate it. I just prefer to say it straightforward.’
Araceli, like many other children who translate for their parents, said the meaning and feeling of certain phrases gets lost in the translation.
‘Sometimes what you want to say gets changed,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. I try my best to change it so that it’s the same.’
Araceli began learning English when she was 4 years old. She picked up phrases from her older brothers and learned to read and write English at school. Even though Spanish was her first language, she prefers to speak English because she can communicate with greater ease and a broader vocabulary. But to communicate with her parents, she must speak Spanish.
One challenge Araceli faces when translating is not knowing enough Spanish vocabulary to communicate phrases or words that she understands in English.
‘Sometimes my teacher makes us use big words in sentences, and I can’t explain those words to my mom,’ she said. ‘I’d rather talk in English.’
1. Despite the availability of some adult interpreters, the use of children is very widespread in Reno public schools. The children are invaluable. As one parent says,
“There is almost always a person or child who can translate. We just ask them to interpret for us…If it is something simple then we can take care of it, like giving information, but often we will look for someone to translate. When our kids go to conferences with us, they will translate.”2. The adult interpreters too aren’t necessarily Expert or Professional. For instance teachers are pulled out of class to interpret.
3. The child interpreters experience some difficulties translating; they especially mention vocabulary gaps. (But what translator doesn’t experience problems with vocabulary gaps?)
4. Despite the difficulties, apparently none of the children is incapable of interpreting at all or refuses to interpret.
5. That doesn’t mean they always like interpreting. The children interviewed would rather be able to conduct all communication in English.
6. They start interpreting at latest when they go to elementary school; that is, at around six years old.
7. Their remarks about what is ‘lost in translation’ show that their metalinguistic awareness of COMAL (Comparison of Meaning Across Languages) is well developed. COMAL is the very important ability of bilinguals to compare a translation with its original for similarity of meaning.
Rachel Breithaupt's report is very informative. For more, follow the link below.
Rachel Breithaupt. Lost in translation: Northern Nevadans learn to cope with language problems, sometimes even between parents and children. news review.com, June 9, 2011.
For more about COMAL, enter comal in the Search box on the right.