The value of a good education is priceless, particularly for parents who’ve immigrated to a new country and need their children to adjust and succeed in their new location. But for many of these parents, the ability to be an effective part of their child’s academic progress is often complicated by language barriers. The steady number of immigrant families coming to the U.S creates an ever-present demand for academic translation and interpretation services which are required under Federal Law.
A week ago, a group of Latino parents filed a lawsuit against Holyoke Public Schools for ignoring its federal and civil rights obligations to offer translation services for over 20 years. Furthermore, there is mention that 113 schools and school districts within Massachusetts failed to provide translations of documents and language interpretation services for LEP parents. Through these allegations, one can sense the frustration of these parents who find themselves unable to become involved with their child’s education due to the language barrier.
When you move from one country to another the culture and most likely, the education system, changes. The rules, process and services offered are going to be different. That’s why it is paramount to have written material in the parents’ native language to help them help their children perform well at school.
I came to the USA in 1997 with 3 children ages 10, 8 and 3. I had to learn and ask many questions to help my children as well as myself, navigate the education system. I was lucky I was proficient in English but even with that advantage, I had many challenges due to the difference of the educations systems and my lack of knowledge of the American way of doing things (many months in advance).
I came from a country where special education or advance placement didn’t exist. There were no resources for that, the education system was for the average student. What a gift to have those options! But those options were new to me. For instance, the first time I learned about advance math was when my child was enrolled in it by the school.
I didn’t know what a “football meet” was so when my child told me he had one I didn’t know I could go. My child felt bad when his parents didn’t show up to support his team. I didn’t know what an “intramural” or a “ Varsity game was”. All are part of the American culture and education system.
“Standardized testing“, was also new to me. I learned that it was needed when moving from one state to another and that they had different tests between Michigan and New York, since in my country the education system was federal law.
I was fortunate to be proficient enough in English to support and participate in the education of my 3 boys. If you understand and know the resources that you have at your disposal you can use them wisely. I have seen parents from other countries struggle like me. One of my Greek friends lost a scholarship because her parents didn’t understand the letter and just filed it. She discovered it when she found it years later.
I can understand from my own experience that moving is overwhelming. Moreover, if you do not know the language or do not understand it well enough you are lost. Creating a cushion for families to land is an assistance that goes a long way.
Think about the helpless feeling of not being able to communicate with a child’s teachers during parent and teacher conferences. Or, the anxiety of not being able to understand English education documents, making it impossible for the parent to make informed decisions on matters affecting their children’s academic future.
The impact of not receiving proper academic translations could affect 44 percent of the Holyoke student body- the portion of students who live in a home where English is not the primary language.
Navigating a new education system in a different language is a challenge that can be made easier by offering professional translations of educational documents and employment of skilled interpreters. All parents have the right to fully participate in and make decisions regarding their children’s educational programs, which for LEP parents is a possibility only through access to educational documents written in their native language.
School districts like Holyoke can get a head start on fostering trust and enhancing LEP parent engagement by translating content that is brought to the attention of English proficient parents. Necessary document translations include-
By providing a professional translation of these types of material, schools help LEP parents to become well informed and prepared to make the best choices for their children’s education. A supportive network of trust is thereby developed between the school, the child and the parent.
As more families immigrate to the U.S, school Districts and the individual schools must be ready to help and accommodate for their successful integration. Helping parents gain better access to education opportunities in the US for their children creates a positive impact on the family’s’ adjustment to the new communities. As stated by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S Department of Justice, schools must provide translation or interpretation from appropriate and competent individuals. Ready to help with Language translation and navigation of cultural differences, are skilled translation agencies like JR Language Translation Services. The challenges that LEP parents face when trying to navigate a new education system with their child is a personal one for us, and we are dedicated to providing academic translation services to help families overcome these challenges.