Five Tips to Consider When Using School Translation Services

Your School Should Have Access to Language Services. Here’s Why.

PTS, Inc. is committed to providing top quality services to school districts, students, families, and professionals in the school system. With more than two decades of experience working with diverse student populations, we have recognized a gap in the delivery of school translation services, such as document translation, in the communities we serve. 

Because special education documents often include clinical language, the terminology can easily be misstated by a translator who does not have a medical or educational background. Students who speak English as a second language can easily be misdiagnosed with a language or learning disorder, simply because they are struggling with translation. Access to education-based, primary language documentation or a bilingual evaluator can prevent a child from being unnecessarily diagnosed with a disability.  

PTS is excited to offer our school districts education-based document translation and bilingual evaluations for certain languages. Below, you’ll find why school-based language services are important, as well as a few tips on how to get the most out of your language service initiatives.

Why Are Language Services Important?

Professional language services in schools offer students, families, and staff the opportunity to boost engagement, improve informed decision-making, and support the students’ progress as comprehensively as possible.

Especially in clinical situations, allowing students to use materials in her or his native language may improve diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and progress. The student can utilize the language and vocabulary with which she or he is comfortable, allowing for better expression of her or his experience, symptoms, and thoughts. When addressing the language barrier and gaining a clear assessment of students’ needs, this approach can potentially decrease the number of students referred for ongoing treatment.

Plus, families need information as well! Offering important details of service to your student’s family in their native language will improve understanding and engagement. Having a school translator to do this signals to the family and community that your school is committed to service excellence.

Know The Law Regarding Language Services Access

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Executive Order 13166-Improving Access to Services for Persons With Limited English Proficiency, each discuss the need for schools to give students and families access to language services. 

The Federal Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency (LEP) is an excellent resource regarding the Federal Government’s approach to language services.

For more information on Pennsylvania-specific legislation on interpreter laws, please see the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s presentation.

When to Use Language Services

Language services are used in a variety of formats and situations. Specifically, foreign language translation in schools is typically utilized in the following instances:

  • Standard Letters from the District/School
  • Informational Brochures and Pamphlets
  • Enrollment Documentation
  • Report Cards
  • Legal Documents
  • IEPs
  • Academic/Clinical Assessment Tools
  • Emails from the District/School
  • Course or Curriculum Information
  • Class Schedules
  • Extra-Curricular Activities Information or Calendars
  • Communications with Families
  • Bus Schedules

Five Tips When Implementing School Translation Services

Ready to begin working with language service providers in your school? Here are a few tips to help you make the most of these services.

  1. Identify the most common languages. Find out which languages are spoken by families in your community and prioritize translating important standard documentation into those languages.
  2. Plan. Craft procedures for requesting and procuring language services in a manner that encourages teachers, students, families, and school staff to utilize the services. Ease of use and timeliness are crucial factors to consider when writing these procedures.
  3. Get the word out! Let your students and families know of the services you offer and how to access them.
  4. Allow for some growing pains. Working with language service providers will be a new experience for many folks in your school. Meetings requiring language services will take longer than usual, and the process can seem daunting at first. Language translation and interpreting for school districts, when done well, is a thoughtful, and often time-consuming process, but with proper training of your staff, outcomes can improve across the board.  
  5. Train your staff. A few quick tips for training staff members who work with school-based interpreters:
    • Speak with the interpreter prior to the meeting. Explaining to the interpreter the purpose of the meeting, the general flow, and any extenuating circumstances that may arise will help the process run smoothly.
    • Speak with the student or family member directly, not the interpreter. The interpreter is there to support communication between all parties, not simply to relay information.
    • Be clear and concise by planning ahead for simple, effective communication. Pausing often to allow for interpretation will improve the accuracy of the interpretation, and allow all parties to understand one another.
    • Be aware of nonverbal cues of misunderstanding or confusion.
    • Before ending the meeting, summarize, debrief, and allow extra time for clarifying questions.

Why Choose PTS to Meet Your Language Services Needs?

PTS is dedicated exclusively to school-based services. Our Therapeutic Ecosystem model informs all service initiatives, and language services has become an integral part of our offerings. We have developed education-specific terminology glossaries and trainings for language service providers working with schools.

Contact us to discuss how our school translation services can help your students, families, and professionals improve communication and increase engagement!

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