In most cities, there is one language that is considered the native one, and maybe a one or two others that many residents speak. However, these other languages are usually the minority languages. Some cities, such as Vancouver, Washington, have a lot more languages that are spoken on a regular basis, and there are too many minority languages to count. Since this is the case in Vancouver, parents of children in the Vancouver school system have been struggling to find a solution. Most of these families cannot communicate with school officials, and translation services are not provided. Although, with so many languages being spoken, it’s no wonder the school cannot translate each.
Lack of Translation Poses a Serious Problem
Especially for students in elementary schools, communication between their parents and teachers is an essential part of their learning experience. Many learning problems or learning strengths can be called out during these years, and it’s important for parents to know which to foster and which to help their child deal with. If parents cannot effectively communicate with their children’s’ teachers, they cannot help. At one elementary school in Vancouver, there are more than 32 languages spoken by families of students in the school. Ideally, the school would offer a professional translation service for these families, but there are simply too many to accommodate.
Current Solutions are Not Ideal
Currently in the Vancouver school system, there are a few ways that teachers communicate with ESL parents, but these methods of communication are less than ideal. First, parents who are part of larger groups that speak the same language can all visit teachers at the same time with a professional translator. However, this does not provide one-on-one time with teachers and parents, so the meetings are not as valuable. Teachers also have their students translate newsletters and notes to be sent home, but then there is no discretion when it comes to the information that the teacher is passing along. Some teachers ask parents to bring along family members to translate, but such coordination is difficult.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for the translation problem in Vancouver, but the school system is actively working on improving it. While they don’t offer translator services for parents on the spot, these parents can plan ahead and hire a professional translator for meetings with their child’s teachers at the school’s expense if they feel that it’s necessary.