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Making learning easier: language interpretation systems remove obstacles to learning

James Nolan, Interpreting Consultant and Trainer, Tuesday,  4 March 2014 12:30:00 PM EST

Schools and school boards seeking to better serve the community and fairly represent the population of a city or county may need to make an effort to be inclusive.  Schools depend on input from parents and parental involvement through parent-teacher organizations.  In order for all parents, regardless of their ethnicity or language, to contribute to and be a part of their children’s education, they need to understand what is going on at school and to be heard at meetings dealing with the educational needs, interests and rights of their children.  For many people whose first language is not English, protecting their children’s rights and advocating their interests before school administrators can be a daunting challenge that calls for innovative solutions.  For example, imagine yourself a Haitian or Dominican parent arriving on these shores after a hurricane destroyed your old home and your child’s school only to find that now your child cannot follow what is happening in the classroom and you cannot effectively help to solve the child’s problems because you too cannot communicate in English with teachers and school authorities.

Many Title I schools with innovative leadership and creative, hard-working staff have found ways to bridge these differences and cultivate meaningful school-family partnerships. Schools are able to conduct meetings and workshops in both English and Spanish as well as in other languages. Using Enersound wireless interpretation equipment, schools can provide translation services to foster parent involvement in many activities, including parenting training and participation in decision-making and volunteer committees. Language interpretation equipment for schools typically consists of a transmitter with a microphone for the interpreter and a set of receivers with headphones for those needing translation. Participants can thus hear what is being said at the meeting in their own language and express themselves in the language they speak best.

From a teacher’s perspective, the most sincere efforts to help a student may be frustrated because the student does not adequately speak the classroom language, often leading to misunderstandings, misjudgments and school failure that could have been prevented if the language barrier had been overcome. Even the usual practice of telephoning the parents of an at-risk student is not an option for the teacher if the parents cannot understand her.

At elementary schools, the need to understand and be able to work with others through peer learning is growing steadily. Many useful learning activities can be designed using the classroom equivalent of “breakout groups” to reinforce learning.  However, the sound environment of a school is often demanding. When several small groups are at work in a classroom the overall level of ambient noise rises, making communication and concentration more difficult.  For students with hearing loss, hearing aids amplify the distracting background noises, making it harder for them to follow. Enersound wireless assistive listening devices complement hearing aids by filtering out disturbing background noise and by enhancing speech. They enable students with a hearing loss to play a full part both in lessons and in other school-related activities.

The use of simultaneous interpretation and assistive listening equipment in schools can empower students to become full-fledged learners and parents to become full participants in their children’s education.

In small-scale meetings and learning scenarios such as interactive workshops and discussion groups, the uniquely convenient portability and lightness of Enersound receivers units enables them to be used either while sitting at the conference table or while moving about the conference room or classroom.  There are no wires to tangle up or to tie participants down to their seats, and the sound remains equally clear anywhere in the room.  Suzanne Hirshfield, Program Coordinator for the Novato Unified School District in California, reports that the Enersound system used by her district enables their bilingual interpreter to provide translation into English and Spanish at school district meetings for up to 50 people and that participants especially appreciate the fact that Enersound receivers, compared with other bulkier receivers that the district formerly used, combine full-featured quality with pocket-size convenience.

                         Enersound equipment in use at an interpreter training workshop in Buenos Aires.

In post-secondary educational settings, at colleges, universities and professional training institutions, Enersound equipment can enable everyone in a large auditorium or master class to hear a lecture or discussion clearly and comprehensibly and to take active part.  Translations of lectures and presentations can enable students to follow the class in their own languages while also permitting students with hearing difficulties to hear clearly, even in auditoriums with less-than-perfect acoustics.

A prestigious Enersound client is the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Medicina of Veracruz, Mexico, which provides advanced training in medical specialties.  The institute recently hosted a conference with over 600 participants speaking Spanish and English, using Enersound equipment to provide simultaneous interpretation.  The lead interpreter, Ms. Nohemi Rojas, observed that the equipment delivered sound “of impressive clarity”, free of any interference.  She noted that sound of such high quality results in better interpretation since it enhances the interpreters’ ability to focus on the speakers’ meaning.

Congreso Internacional de Cirugía Estética.