Educational institutions, of all levels, in the United States are becoming more culturally diverse with each passing day. Often students, and particularly parents and guardians, speak little to no English, therefore causing communication issues with school administrators and teachers. Because of these challenges, schools are seeking out education translation services in increasing numbers.
When thinking about translation services for schools, administrators and teachers should consider several key factors to ensure that all communication is accurate and of the highest quality. The following are some of the biggest considerations when seeking education translation services.
Translation vs. Interpretation
“Interpretation” refers to the spoken word, “translation” to the written word. Therefore, when you need a linguist to interpret a live conversation, either in-person or via the telephone, you ask for interpreting services. When you have a document that needs to be translated, you ask for translation services.
When hiring an interpreter, you should take a couple things into consideration. Do you need an in-person interpreter? If a meeting or conversation is anticipated to be short and simple, you probably do not need someone in-person. In this instance a telephone interpreter could be used. If a meeting is going to be longer or more complex, you may want an in-person interpreter to ensure your communication is accurate and complete. To realize cost savings when using in-person interpreting services, it is best to schedule several back-to-back meetings with the same language pair. Many education translation services will charge a minimum amount to send out and interpreter, so blocking meetings together will result in cost savings vs. multiple visits.
When documents need to be translated, it is best to plan ahead as much as possible. Parent notices and handbooks often are similar on a year-to-year basis, and can be translated ahead of schedule to eliminate the cost of “rush” services. Additionally, if a document only has minor changes on a year-to-year basis, good educational translation services will keep an archive of old versions of documents to eliminate the need to re-translate the entire document. This is even easier if the school tracks the changes made each year, then an experienced language agency can simply find the changes reducing the time to make the changes, and resulting in savings.
Budgets & Turnaround Time
Some schools will think that if they have bilingual employees that the translation of documents can be done in-house to save money. This is never a good practice. Even though someone may speak two languages fluently, this does not mean that they have been formally educated in the second language. Using staff will likely result in a low quality translation. Also, internal employees have other duties that they need to perform, so using in-house staff will often take longer than using qualified education translation services.
Other schools may think that using a quick online translation service, such as Google Translate, is sufficient. This practice will result in even lower quality translations because machine translations will not follow grammatical rules or conventions, they simply translate word-to-word. It is always best to use professionals right from the start to save time and money over these types of “shortcuts”.
Read more about the cost of translation and interpretation in our blog "How Much Does Translation & Interpretation Cost?"
Reputable education translation services will provide services that are not only of high-quality, but that are also confidential and HIPAA compliant, when dealing with medical information. A trustworthy agency will strive to provide a linguist that does not pose a conflict of interest with your school or district. They will provide a linguist that doesn’t have ties to your community so there will be little likelihood of someone knowing the parties involved. They will also ensure that their interpreters are knowledgeable of the HIPPA laws and are compliant with the guidelines at all times when translating or interpreting medical information. Finally, when providing translation services, a high-quality agency will keep all translation memory and archived document data secure.
Voice – Compassion and Culture
Documents will be translated at a level that is understandable for parents and children. Translation services for schools will also ensure that the “voice”, or communication style, employed by the school is consistent in the new language. A good agency will provide a regular linguist for each school, to further ensure consistency of voice, as well as making sure that the communications from the school are always culturally sensitive.
Materials and Situations
There are many types of documents and situations that would require translation or interpreting services. Documents that schools may look to have translated include handbooks, IEPs and parent notices. The types of situations that may need an interpreter available include, parent-teacher conferences, calls from the school nurse, or office meetings.
Handbooks, if consistently translated by the same education translation services and linguist, can often be done by just making the relevant changes year to year. Also, linguists can act as not only the translator but also a second editor. When something doesn’t look right a reliable agency will call to verify the information, rather than translating something that doesn’t seem right.
Cost savings can be realized when translating IEPs consistently through the same education translation service. Once the standard form is translated once, the non-changing text of the form will not need to be translated again. Only the individual data for each student will be translated, resulting in a reduction in cost. Linguists are sensitive to the nature of an IEP and will ensure that the individualized sections are translated well and that the meaning is 100% accurate.
A call home from the school nurse would be the perfect use for a telephone interpreting service. But when conducting parent-teacher conferences, it would be ideal to schedule a full day of a single language pair appointments (like Spanish – English) to make the best use of an in-person interpreter’s time. When involved in a meeting that includes an in-person interpreter, the interpreter will be well trained to act not as a participant, but as a “tool” in aiding communication between the parties involved. They will interpret precisely and not improvise, or have side discussions with either party.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into choosing education translation services. Making an informed decision means knowing some of these considerations as well as doing research into the companies providing translation services for schools in your area. Rapport International can help you make informed choices and is happy to provide free consultations to answer your questions, or free quotes for all your translation needs.