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United States public schools support five million English Language Learners (ELL). In line with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, the Federal Government legally obligates school districts to ensure ELL students have access to language tools which facilitate participation in educational programs and services. 1 Translation and interpretation play a vital role in providing access to ELL students and their families. In fact, denial of these services not only rejects legal obligations, but also impacts student academic success.

Importance of Translation & Interpretation for ESL/ELL in the US

We are diving into the role translation plays for limited English proficient (LEP) parents in supporting their ELL children.

The goal of quality and effective written materials and oral communication between the school and parents is to support the academic, social, and emotional wellbeing of students. This cannot happen without adequate translation and interpretation for students and parents.

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How Translation & Interpretation Providers Benefit ESL/ELL Programs in the US

Clear Enrollment Communication

The foundation for LEP parents is clear communication throughout the enrollment process. Consider, as an English speaker, the challenge of vacationing in a non-English speaking country. Checking into a hotel, renting a car, and even ordering a meal presents a communication impediment. Now, consider how a parent must feel when navigating the complex system of public education in a language they do not understand.

Providing support to LEP parents should remain a top priority for any educational organization that wants to maintain their legal compliance. Investment in the translation of all forms and written guidelines, policies, and other information for LEP parents is a must. Remember, even if a parent speaks English, they may not read or write in English.

Translate any standard written information provided to English speaking parents, including applications, school rules and disciplinary policies, school schedules, permission forms, and emergency procedures. Other key materials are qualification information for services like free or reduced lunch, bus schedules, and before or after care. The key is to give parents the information they need to set their child up to succeed at your school.

Support Parents in Their Child’s Academic Success

A lack of quality translation and interpretation for ELL students creates a barrier to academic success. Many of these students speak and navigate social conversations in English; however, they are not proficient in the complex and specific educational language requirements for academic learning.

The first piece for academic success is to equip students with the right tools, including translated or interpreted textbooks, tests, homework, supplemental materials, and oral lessons and lectures. The second piece is clear communication for parents on the academic expectations and progress of their children.

Consider the challenge an English-speaking parent experiences helping their child with math homework. The methods and materials are different than when the parent went to school, which makes explaining and assisting with homework harder. Now, consider the greater challenge of not understanding the language of the homework assignment. Both the student and the parent experience a disadvantage. Academic work presented in the student’s primary language breaks down the barrier to academic success.

Another key element for academic communication between the school and parents include IEPs, special education resources, and gifted and talented information. If a parent is new to public education in the United States, they may not understand these programs or even know they exist. Proper translation and interpretation ensure parents have the information needed to advocate for their children.

Establish Two-Way Communication

The challenge for schools is not only communicating from the school or teacher to the parent but providing a way for parents to communicate to the school. Options for on-demand interpretation are available to facilitate conversations. Do not allow parents to feel frustrated or ignored. Instead, offer a proactive solution for LEP parents to reach out to the school both in written and audio/and or video.

A common solution for schools and families to communicate is by use of interpreters. Depending on the situation, over-the-phone interpreting, on-site interpreting, or virtual-remote interpreting will fit best.

District or school leadership must offer direction for families and teachers to avoid frustration and miscommunication. U.S. regulations entitle students to receive an equal education, regardless of language differences. Empowered parents, through access to clear communication without language discrimination, can better support their children’s educational needs.

Break Down Barriers to Success

Children identified as ELL are more likely than non-ELL students to perform below standard on national assessments. 3 Translation and interpretation offer the key to help students receive a quality education. When schools invest in professional translation tools, cultural and language barriers fade, creating a more equal educational environment.

Propio provides ELL programs in many school districts with both interpreting and translation support. We help our clients create the right language solutions to meet the specific needs for their schools. With a full suite of translation and interpretation services available, we customize a solution with the goal of seamless communication. Connect with us today to learn more.