Telephonic Interpretation in Education

Interpretation holds an important place in our country’s education system. Adequate communication to Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals is mandated by school-related federal laws and legislation that address the topic. Depending on the school district, it might not be a practical possibility to have a professional interpreter on staff or be ready for spontaneous situations. Similarly, there may be multiple languages to accommodate within a school district and limited resources when it comes to interpretation. In these instances, telephonic interpretation is a logical and economical choice.

Telephonic interpretation is often available at any time, from any location, and in any number of languages. A telephonic interpreter can be used any time any other professional interpreting services would be needed. In the education system, this would most likely be for parent-teacher meetings, school meetings, or parent-administrator phone calls.


Best practices for school meetings

In addition to the overall best practices for using a telephonic interpreter, here are some tips to ensure a positive experience during a parent-teacher conference or other school meetings.

  1. Training. Before the scheduled school meeting or conference night, have a training session for interpreters and staff in order to make sure that all people involved have the skills and understanding necessary to support the families. This includes ensuring that the interpreter feels comfortable with certain words or phrases that might not exist in the target language, such as “special education” or “state standards”. Training may not always be possible for telephonic interpreters, so confirm that your language provider offers interpreters who specialize in interpreting for the education system.
  2. Schedule more time. Conferences and school informational meetings that use an interpreter will naturally take more time. Make sure to plan accordingly.
  3. Speak to the parents, not the interpreter. Make sure to talk directly to the parents and not the interpreter.
  4. Speak evenly and pause frequently. Don’t necessarily speak slowly, but do speak at a measured pace and pause often to allow the interpreter to translate a manageable amount of information.
  5. Offer local support resources info. Parents might not know about resources such as homework-help programs at the library or a tutoring support program through the school or community.
  6. Leave time for parent questions. Highlight the importance of ongoing communication between the home and school. Provide your contact information and ways parents can communicate their questions and concerns with bilingual support.


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