Translation and Interpretation in Education

Translation (written) and interpretation (oral) both have a very prevalent place within our country’s education system. The way teachers and administrators share school-related information with students and parents is crucial to ensuring that important and critical information is communicated meaningfully and adequately.

Recognizing and protecting the need for adequate communication to Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals, are various school-related federal laws and legislation that address the topic.

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Though it doesn’t specifically call out LEP individuals, it has historically protected this group.
  • In 2000, the President signed Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access for Persons with Limited English Proficiency”, which clarifies the reasonable steps to ensure that clients of federally funded programs have meaningful access to the information and services, by looking at (1) the number or proportion of LEP persons receiving services, (2) the frequency in which LEP individuals come in contact with federally funded programs, (3) the nature and importance of the programs, and (4) the resources available to participants along with cost.
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes important policies that recognize the needs and diversity of students learning English in an effort to close the achievement gap between LEP and other students. The bill, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also maintains accountability for how students learning English are achieving – known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Interpretation Needs in Education

Professional interpretation services have an important place in our country’s education system. To ensure clear communication to all students and parents, teachers and other school employees should offer a professional interpreter if needed in any parent-teacher conferences, school meetings, meetings about special education, or any other conversations regarding a child’s education. If the presence of a live, skilled interpreter is not possible, telephonic interpretation is an option. Regardless of whether or not the interpreter is in person, they should be neutral and should communicate everything said during the conversation, while not omitting or adding any information. Maintaining neutrality and confidentiality is of the utmost importance. Students should not be expected or required to interpret for their parents – content may not be appropriate depending on the age of the student or nature of the meeting.

Translation Needs in Education

In our public school system, students and parents have the right to be communicated with in the language they understand. As such, it is the school district’s responsibility to have certain documents translated that are distributed to students. This can include the following:

  • School registration and enrollment
  • Grades, academic standards, and graduation information
  • School rules and student discipline policies
  • Attendance, absences, and withdrawal procedures
  • Parent permission for activities or programs
  • School closures
  • Access to special programs or services (i.e., advanced placement, English language learner programs)
  • Special education and services for students with disabilities

Other translation projects for school districts could include student handbooks, written parent communications, forms (food cards, bus routing and forms, permission slips), websites, and videos with narration. It is also important to note that documents should be translated into all languages that are represented in a school district, and not just the most prevalent languages.

To see how Argo Translation can help you meet your needs when it comes to translation and interpretation in the education system, please visit our website at