From Isolation to Inclusion, Language Services Promote Equal Education

As most schools in the United States have already ended their ’23-’24 academic year, it’s time to look ahead and prepare for ’24-’25, including planning your school’s language services. Most schools have the budget for this important resource, but unfortunately many are not taking advantage of it. We here at Interpreters Unlimited (IU) — a language service provider (LSP) headquartered in San Diego, California — urge schools across the country to prioritize language interpretation and document translation services to ensure that every student receives the education they deserve.

Imagine that a non-English-speaking student joins your school mid-year and is struggling to understand lessons, feeling isolated, and missing out on crucial education. In such cases, many schools rely on AI and Google Translate, but these technologies contain errors and inefficiencies — leading to communication breakdowns and educational inequalities. A teacher cannot teach in English and then act as a translation facilitator using a translation app, communicating every single thing twice all day long. This creates a poor educational experience and students being left out, confused, unhappy, and even scared.

There is a lot of talk about AI translation, but no matter how good it is, interpreting still needs a human touch. You wouldn’t trust an AI robot to perform heart surgery on you without a human doctor there, right? Education should be taken just as seriously. When it comes to important situations where wording and nuance matter, one little mistake can be detrimental.

Planning ahead for language services is crucial for several reasons. First, it reduces the need for last-minute coordination and ensures smoother operations throughout the school year. Moreover, early planning enables schools to allocate resources more effectively. This includes budgeting for interpreter services, translation software, and staff training. Another critical aspect of preparation is emergency readiness. Preparing for language services in advance ensures that schools can effectively and swiftly communicate emergency information to linguistically diverse populations, safeguarding the well-being of all students and their families.

LSPs offer services to meet these interpreting and translation needs either through on-demand services or flexible short- or long-term contracts. Services are usually available in person, virtually via video, and over the phone. There is no shortage of options to ensure every student in need receives the services they require.

The consequences of neglecting language services are significant. Communication breakdowns can create educational inequalities, leaving non-English-speaking students at a disadvantage. Schools that fail to address language needs may also face reputational damage and dissatisfaction among students and parents. Looking to Google Translate, other machine translation apps, and AI cannot substitute for professional interpreters who ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity in communication.

I’ll close with insights from interpreter Fady Bishay, who remarked, “Having worked as an interpreter in diverse educational settings, I’ve seen firsthand how crucial human interpreters are for bridging the gap for non-English-speaking students. It’s about more than just words — it’s about understanding nuances, fostering participation, and creating a truly inclusive learning environment.”

Marc Westray
Marc Westray is a Marketing Specialist with Interpreters Unlimited who writes content based on language, language services and their place in society, culture and business. Marc also contributes as a writer and photographer for magazines and newspapers covering topics from nature to entertainment and beyond.


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