Education translation is urgently needed in schools across America. The number of students (and parents) with limited English proficiency is growing as more and more immigrants are enrolling in preschool, grade school, middle school, and high school. There’s even a spike of students studying abroad in college these days.
Why Education Translation Is Necessary for Schools
Education translation services are becoming more and more necessary for schools at both the public and private levels — from kindergarten through higher education. With more and more immigrant students enrolling in schools across the United States, creating equal learning opportunities has never been more important.
Currently across the country:
- 5 million English language learners (ELL) were enrolled in U.S. schools in 2015
- 25% of U.S. children don’t speak English at home
- 1.1 million international students are currently studying in the U.S.
- The percentage of English language learners in the U.S. grows every year
- For ELL students, the most common language spoken at home is Spanish
It’s obvious that the need for English translation resources is needed in schools across the board.
The Problem With Education Translation Services
When it comes to in-person English translation services, many schools are hard-strapped for money for high-quality professional translators.
To add insult to injury, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely shifted the way children learn altogether. Now that e-learning is the norm, many kids don’t have in-person support anymore at all. Programs that ELL kids once thrived on (including after-school programs and times blocked out during the day for special assistance) are no longer offered at all.
The need for technology-based translation services is more apparent than ever. Language learning apps and translation apps such as MyLanguage on the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores allow children to use voice-to-text as well as text translation on their own, at home. While apps like Google Translate might not offer high levels of accuracy, there are still some apps that can help
These types of apps also take some of the stress off parents that might otherwise struggle to help their children learn in English at home.
Translation Services for Students
Public schools often have the most need for translation services for students. Many schools in urban areas that are home to immigrant populations have language needs that vary throughout local school districts. Just some of the reasons that local schools need some type of translation service (whether it’s an in-person translator or translation technology) include:
- Explaining advanced grade-level vocabulary
- Reading and writing comprehension
- Intricate terms and nuances that are difficult for English-speaking teachers to translate
- Offering both students and teachers support for vocab words that might otherwise stump and set back an entire lesson
Tips for Working With ELL Students
Working with ELL students is much different than working with students who speak English as a first language.
Here are a few tips for communicating with English language learning students:
- Create a safe space
- Use visual aids
- Introduce vocab at the beginning of a lesson (not during the lesson)
- Connect similarities between English and native languages
- Ask plenty of questions to ensure kids understand both cognitively and emotionally
- Don’t ask closed-ended questions
Remember, the best way to learn a new language is to take it slow. Don’t overwhelm your students with loads of new vocab words in one day; instead, introduce new words as they’re relevant.
Translation Services for Parents
While the focus of education translation is usually on the student, many parents may need help as well — in some cases, parents may need more translation assistance. Just some of the reasons parents may need translation services include common document translation (report cards, permission slips, medical forms) and communication of a student’s strengths or challenges.
It’s also important to ensure parents feel welcome at a parent/teacher conference — regardless of their first languages.
When it comes to parent-teacher communication, teachers should never use the students as translators; in fact, teachers should encourage students to abstain from translating or explaining altogether.
When a student translates for a parent or teacher, it creates a breakdown in communication between the parent and teacher. Many students aren’t equipped to work as translators (no matter how fluent they are in English).
Using a translation app can ensure parents don’t feel frustrated or confused if they get stuck on a word or phrase.
As in all cases when you’re communicating with people from other cultures, it’s important to ensure you don’t use colloquialisms or slang. Speak clearly, and enunciate to get your point across. And whatever you do, don’t speak ‘too’ slowly, and take care not to ‘talk down’ to the parent or child.