Students train as interpreters, with benefits for all involved

by Barbara Cervone

October 14, 2012

BURIEN, WA—On a fall morning in this community outside Seattle, most of the people waiting in line at the local food bank were elderly immigrants from Ukraine. From her post near the front desk Valentina, a lcoal high school senior, spotted a woman hunched in frustration, struggling to understand a food-bank staffer’s repeated instructions.

With little hesitation, she stepped in. “I’ve been in that position myself,” recalls Valentina, herself a Russian immigrant. “The person keeps talking, raising his voice as he grows impatient.” She knew just what to tell him: “If he wanted the lady to understand him, he’d have to pause between sentences to give me time to interpret. I also told him he’d need to speak slowly and respectfully.”

Valentina’s experience as a newcomer served her well, but an unusual program in the Highline School District has served her even better. For more than a year, she has replaced her afternoon high-school electives with the Student Interpreter program at the nearby Puget Sound Skills Center.

Open to bilingual high school juniors and seniors, the program offers this district’s English language learners an unusual leg up: the opportunity to gain real-world experience as interpreters. If they wish, they also gain entree to the professional translation and interpretation job market. Valentina herself is training to become a medical interpreter.

Read more… Article provided by Mary Ann Herrera.


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