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

Application Deadline: Monday, October 8, 2018

The Interdisciplinary Humanities Center supports interdisciplinary research and public programs that advance knowledge about human experience in cultural, historical, and social contexts. The IHC seeks graduate and undergraduate students who are fluent in Spanish to serve as interpreters at Isla Vista Elementary and Franklin Elementary schools during the schools’ fall parent-teacher conferences. By drawing upon their foreign language expertise to meet the needs of elementary students and their families, student interpreters will gain experience in using their academic and language-brokering skills in a broader social environment that includes community members, teachers, and school administrators. Read below to learn more about the program.

Timeline and Structure:

Fall Parent-Teacher Conferences are scheduled to take place at IV Elementary and Franklin Elementary during the week of November 13-16, 2018 between 12:30 and 4:30 pm at 30-minute intervals. Interpreters will be able to sign up in advance for the times they are available to work. Interpreters will be paid $10 for each 30-minute interval.

In early November, student interpreters will take part in a mandatory hour-long training session. During the session, students will become familiar with family-based issues, the potential content of the conferences, the vocabulary and terms frequently used in the discussions, and issues of confidentiality.

As part of your application you must upload a CV and a letter of interest describing your language training and preparation for this work, any relevant past experience, and the reasons you are interested in participating in this program; also include the name of a UCSB faculty member who is familiar with your language skills and whom we may contact as a reference.  Applications are due by Monday, October 8, 2018.  If you have any questions about the program, please contact IHC Associate Director Erin Nerstad at

About the Program

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 To donate to this program, please click the button below.