Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Lost in Translation

I'm working on putting together the student handbook, a ten-page booklet containing the school calendar, dress code, course descriptions, bell schedule (not that we have bells), and the like. The question now is how to get it translated into Spanish in time to hand out to students and parents? Providing materials for parents in their native language is so important, but we don't have any consistent way to get it done. Our Spanish teacher and one or two others can handle short letters or memos, but long documents like the school handbook or monthly newsletter are way too much work to ask someone to do on top of their regular teaching load. On-line translation sites don't work that well. Last year, a parent volunteered, but she got upset with us over something unrelated and stopped translating. No other parents have ever volunteered or seem likely to do so. This seems like a civil rights issue to me, so I keep urging my principal to find someone we can pay, so that we can have a system in place and also demand reliability - but of course, finding a translator is easier said than done. The next time I'm in the Columbia neighborhood, I'm going to look at their bulletin boards and see if anyone is advertising services there.

Can you imagine being a father who cannot read any of the materials sent home from school?

Can you imagine being a mother who must rely on her son or daughter to translate what the teacher says at parent-teacher conferences?

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