Monday, February 25, 2008

Liz: Details about Translating at Parent-Teacher Conference

For this post, I would like to talk about my experiences translating at the parent teacher conferences in more detail because I know many students were nervous about it.
I wasn’t too nervous because over the summer I worked as a Spanish-English interpreter at a Target in my home town. The experience helped me out with the parent-teacher conferences as far as practice goes, but as for the vocabulary I used it was completely different.
At the beginning, I used very basic conversational questions because the father of the student seemed a bit nervous and was very quiet. So when we started walking down the hall I started making small talk and asking him where he was from to make him more comfortable. This was also a good way for him to get used to my accent and my speech patterns.
The first class we went to was biology and the student I was helping was having quite a bit of problems in this class, so I had to explain to his father what had happened. I used phrases like “No ha entregado las tareas” and “Está jugando en clase.”
The teacher offered to let the student come in to class before school to make up all of the work he was missing. The teacher explained that he had to come in every day, but if he misses one day “the deal is off.”
I did get a little nervous here because I had no idea how to say “the deal is off” or anything remotely like it in Spanish. So I just took a minute to think and tried explaining it in a different way. Basically I explained that he had to come in every day at 7:30 or he would “suspender la clase.” Although it wasn’t a direct translation, I was still able to convey the urgency of the situation.
As the night went on, everyone became more relaxed; I became more comfortable using my Spanish and the father started asking more questions and had responses to the teacher’s comments.
Being a translator may seem like a lot of pressure at first, but if you don’t know a word just take a minute and think about another way to convey the message or try using circumlocution. Any little bit you can translate makes a huge difference because the parents need to know how to help their children if they are struggling in school. So please don’t be nervous about translating! It can be a great way to practice your Spanish and help some one out at the same time.


  1. Good job, Liz

    Working as an interpreter might be a difficult task, but you explain beautifully what to do to convey a message, which is the main idea in that situation.


  2. Can I just remind readers that INTERPRETATION is oral communication and translating is written. If you want to be a professional in either field you should differentiate the two, some people are good at one and not the other whereas some people do both. Thanks.

  3. Dear Jenell,
    True! Thanks for the correction.
    These students are not professional interpreters or translators, but thank you for pointing that out.