Interpreting in Our Local Schools

Interpreters in a training session before the Spring 2018 conferences

Interpreting in Our Local Schools:
A Community-Engagement Opportunity for UC Santa Barbara Students

The Interdisciplinary Humanities Center has launched a collaborative learning project with local elementary schools, including Isla Vista Elementary and Franklin Elementary, which brings UC Santa Barbara undergraduate and graduate students to the school sites to serve as paid Spanish language interpreters during the twice-yearly parent/guardian-teacher conferences. Before interpreting, students receive training from Professor Aline Ferreira (Spanish and Portuguese) in family-based issues, the potential content of the conferences, frequently-used vocabulary, and issues of confidentiality. In addition to Spanish interpretation, UCSB students have also served as Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese interpreters for conferences and IEP assessments for the Goleta Union School District.

For parents and guardians who do not speak English, this interpreter service is crucial. It enables them to communicate with their child’s teacher, and, through this contact, engage directly in their child’s learning experience. For the UCSB students participating in the program, this work is invaluable. Those students studying translation and interpretation gain experience in using their academic skills in a broader social environment that includes community members, teachers, and school administrators.

Student interpreter comments on their reasons for participating highlight some of the crucial needs met by the program:

  • “The main reason I am interested in participating in this program is because I can relate to those kids’ experiences on a personal level. Growing up in Orange County, most of the student body throughout elementary school was Latino/Chicano, including me. As a result, interpreter assistance was also scarce for many of my peers. I remember vividly being in the 4th and 5th grade [and] being told by my teacher that all the English-Spanish slots had already been taken. I remember being frustrated trying to translate for both my teacher and mom at the same time for 30-minute teacher conferences.”
  • “The reason for my interest in participating as an interpreter for the parent-teacher conferences derives mainly from my childhood experiences. Having interpreted for my parents at almost all my parent-teacher conferences and back to school nights as a child, I remember interpreting being nerve-wracking. I did not know if the teacher was going to ask me to translate a word whose meaning I would not know at such young age.”
  • “I am interested in this opportunity because I want people in my community to benefit from my education. I believe that UCSB students should have a better connection with younger students in IV, as well as their parents. Seeing that students of similar backgrounds can attend a four-year university may encourage students to put all their effort into education. I also have an interest in elementary school teaching, where I anticipate having to be my own translator at times.”
  • “Becoming a professional Interpreter and Translator is my prospective career choice. For this reason, I believe that this opportunity will further my experience in interpreting by providing me with the assets and knowledge needed to work in such field.”

Questions about the Interpreters Program can be directed to IHC Associate Director Erin Nerstad at nerstad@ihc.ucsb.edu. To donate to this program, please click the button below.