Sunday, November 11, 2012

High-School Students as Community Translators

This report comes from Dalton, Georgia, USA, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“Classroom meetings are hard enough when teachers struggle to explain curriculum, and parents press to learn why their children aren't making better marks. Language barriers makes the encounter even more treacherous.
“Schools here are turning to their own kids for help.
“Students from Morris Innovative High School are translating at parent-teacher conferences in local elementary schools. Their work eases communication difficulties, say school officials, and gives the translators real-world experience.
‘"‘When you talk about a child's grade, it can get emotional,' said Paige Watts, the teacher at Morris High School who lines up translators for three local elementary schools. "All the student translators have made things gel better between teachers and families. They've helped a lot, and I've watched them mature and grow up through the process."
“A language gap looms especially large in this northwest Georgia county, [a center of the] carpet and flooring industry. More than one-quarter of the population speaks Spanish at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than half of those are not proficient in English.
"‘They want to know how their kids are doing in school,' said sophomore [second year high school student] Estela Fuentes, who has translated in some parent-teacher conferences. ‘They want their kids to succeed, and they need to get information that would be hard to get normally. I really wanted to be part of that process.’
“Fuentes said she's happy to help parents understand what's happening in their children's classrooms. Junior Ronaldo Adame said the work also gives the translators practical experience.
“’It looks good on college applications and resumes,’ said Adame, ‘and could lead to part-time work.’
“The Morris student translators are also helping give the school exposure in the community. They've worked at a health fair and will have opportunities to work with a local carpet manufacturer and in a college admissions office. Students will also shadow translators at a local hospital."
  • The penetration of Spanish, according to the U.S. Census figures.
  • There's no mention of training, It seems the students are thrown in at the deep end.
  • Nevertheless, their work, done in a context that they know well themselves as students, appears to be effective.
  • While most of the interpreting is undoubtedly of the liaison type, some of it's conference interpreting (parent-teacher conferences).
  • The student translators are happy to help, and don't regard the work as an imposition.
  • Their ages and education: the ones quoted are 15 and 17, so they're mature adolescents. But they don't yet have a postsecondary education.
  • The work has a beneficial effect on the translators: "I've watched them mature and grow up through the process."
  • The report, being popular journalism and neither a professional nor a technical text, doesn't distinguish interpreter from translator.
 CNHI. Schools facing language barrier use students for translation. Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 8 November 2012. The full report is here.
The Wikipedia article on Dalton is here,

Morris Innovative High School students Luiz Paniagua, 17, left, and Estela Fuentes, 15, translate for students at an elementary school health fair. (Photo by Matt Hamilton / The Daily Citizen, Dalton, GA)