It is back-to-school time in some areas of the country. We understand things are a bit chaotic due to the ebb and flow of the pandemic, but for the purposes of this blog are going to talk generally about the benefits of educational interpreter services.
As the population of the United States continues to grow and diversify, the need to communicate in multiple languages becomes more of a necessity. There are approximately five million students in US schools with limited English language skills that affect their education. Providing services to these students is required by federal law, but that is not the main reason it should be done.
You are required by law to plow your driveway and sidewalk in the wintertime, but that is not the main reason you do it–you do it so you do not bust your butt going to work. Likewise, the main reason to provide interpreter services to these students is so they do not fall flat on their faces in the classroom.
Types + Benefits of Educational Interpreter Services
In-person interpreter services are the most favorable solution for communication barriers (We realize this is not possible in some areas due to the pandemic and we will explore other options shortly).
When possible, having an educational interpreter in the room is preferred because they do a much better job of reading body language and facial expressions, which allows them to facilitate the conversation in a more effective manner.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian is known for his breakdown of human communication into 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language. While there is some disagreement on the exact percentages, the consensus is nonverbal communication is extremely critical. This is the main reason why having an interpreter on-site with you is preferred.
Another benefit to working with in-person educational interpreters is it allows teachers and students to build a rapport with the interpreter. Meeting in person provides teachers ample time to brief the interpreter on the situation. Developing a positive relationship will also increase the effectiveness of the interpretation session.
Furthermore, when you find an interpreter that you “click” with, you have more of an opportunity to continue working with them. In-person interpreters help students of all ages feel more at ease.
In-person interpreters are available nationwide in a wide variety of spoken languages, including American Sign Language. Whether a deaf or hard-of-hearing student needs an ASL interpreter each day, or Spanish-speaking parents need an interpreter for an upcoming parent-teacher conference, professional interpreting services ensure all students receive an equal education.
Video Remote Interpreting
Video Remote Interpreting has been around for years, but it was only due to the pandemic that the general public became aware of its benefits.
Without it, millions of children would have had no way to stay connected to their teachers and classmates. The biggest benefit of VRI, as you might imagine, is the ability for all parties to see the interpreter and vice versa. This speaks to the importance of non-verbal communication, which we discussed above. Another benefit of VRI is that it can be on-demand or pre-scheduled.
Moreover, VRI is convenient: There is no travel involved–interpreters are connected in about 30 seconds. We also offer top-notch security options with our VRI services (encryption), which is extremely important when dealing with children. We also offer VRI on almost every virtual platform. If you are still getting accustomed to this option, here is a helpful resource that covers everything you need to know about VRI.
Over the Phone Interpreting
Over-the-phone interpreting is a simple, convenient and cost-effective solution. This service is great for schools that need to call a student’s family to set up meetings such as a parent-teacher conference, psychology review, etc. There is no need to schedule an over-the-phone interpreter. Over-the-phone interpreting will be your saving grace in time-sensitive cases.
Clients need only to set up their telephonic account one time and then they are granted access to interpreters in over 250 languages. You are given an 800 number and a unique access code, which then connects you with an operator. You are then connected to the interpreter in less than 15 seconds.
The advantage of speaking with an operator is that you don’t have to worry about automated menus malfunctioning and you can also describe the situation, so they can connect you with the best-suited interpreter. They can also help if you are unsure of the language for which you need interpretation.
The greatest advantage of over-the-phone interpreting is speed. It’s great when both parties are communicating over the telephone. However, it is not ideal for every situation as it does have a few minor downfalls. The interpreter cannot see anything going on in the room and is not always briefed on the circumstances. They have no access to extra-linguistic clues to the speaker’s meaning and context (like body language and facial expressions).
For these reasons, we do not suggest using over-the-phone interpreting for the classroom or important meetings with multiple people in the room. It’s a fantastic solution but it must be used appropriately.
CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) / C-Print
CART and C-Print aren’t technically interpreter services but they still deserve a mention as they are a fantastic and innovative solution for the classroom. These services are designed for deaf or hard-of-hearing students.
It’s most easily described as subtitles for live discussions. Spoken language is translated instantaneously into text and displayed in various forms such as on a computer. A writer can either sit in the classroom with the student or work remotely via a high-powered microphone. This service is extremely popular on a college level and has gained traction in middle and high school as well. The main caveat is that the student must be able to read.
- CART is an exact transcription of the class.
- C-Print summarizes the conversation or lecture. It’s similar to an electronic note-taking system designed to provide a meaning for meaning transcription.
CART services are also an innovative solution for graduation ceremonies. While many schools and universities have in-person ASL interpreters attend to interpret for deaf or hard-of-hearing students and families, CART makes a great addition.
Tips For Working With Educational Interpreters
Here are a few tips to prepare for sessions with educational interpreters. Proper preparation ensures that everyone is on the same page for a smooth and successful meeting/class/etc.
Book your interpreter ahead of time! Give your language services provider background information and any available details of the meeting . This will help them book the best-suited interpreter for your meeting. If you have a particular interpreter you enjoy working with, booking ahead of time will give you a greater probability that he/she is available.
Provide reference materials and any background information as necessary: With young children, alert your language services provider if any sensitive material will be discussed. It’s always best for your interpreters to be as prepared as possible.
Be prepared for meetings to last about twice as long as usual: Likewise, prepare the classroom accordingly if an interpreter is needed for daily classes.
Confidentiality: Everything said at the meeting will be interpreted and kept confidential.
Speak in the first person: Refrain from speaking to the interpreter directly. Instead of saying, “Please ask him what his time frame for completion is,” try this: “What is the time frame of completion?” (speak directly to the other people in the meeting, not the interpreter, unless of course, you have a question for the interpreter!)
Be clear, speak in simple language, and pause: Speak clearly so the interpreter can hear you. Be sure to pause often to give the interpreter time to process what you are saying and find the appropriate equivalent.
We hope you find these tips useful for the next time you work with students with limited English proficiency and or deaf/hard-of-hearing students.
Everyone deserves the right to education, no matter their country of origin. Language service providers such as iTi are here to support you in your goals. Don’t let language barriers frustrate you–overcome them by knowing what services are available and we’ll take care of the rest!
This blog was originally published on April 25, 2017; it was updated for relevancy and freshness.