Spanish speaking parents and notes home--what do you do?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by perplexed, Aug 26, 2012.

  1. perplexed

    perplexed Comrade

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    Aug 26, 2012

    If you have a large amount of Spanish speaking parents, do you also include notes home in Spanish? I'm not meaning notes or letters from the office, but for your own classroom?


    If so, what do you use to translate? Is there an online program that's accurate? I know some Spanish, but not enough to make sure the sentence structure is okay and makes sense.

    I am currently writing a note to parents about myself and my class. I am wondering if I should include a Spanish one on the back. I would say 35%-45% may speak Spanish only.
     
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  3. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Do you have a coworker that's fluent in Spanish? I used to cobble together what I thought was a reasonable translation, then give it to a coworker to correct. I did that for both Spanish and Haitian-Creole speaking parents.
     
  4. Maryhf

    Maryhf Connoisseur

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    If a student is designated as an ELL, in PA we are obligated by law to communicate with parents in the language they prefer. You may want to check on that in your state.
     
  5. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I send my classroom newsletters home in English. There is google translate, but I know it's not accurate as far as grammar goes. All of my students speak English, so I just tell them that if someone at home doesn't read English they can read it to them or have a sibling or other relative read it. I know it's not the best solution, but I figured it was better than not bothering to do the weekly newsletters at all. We do have an interpreter that will make phone calls for us, so if it's really important/I need to speak to one specific parent, I'll use her. However, her schedule is too busy to translate things like weekly newsletters. Communications sent home from the district or school admin are in Spanish. Most of my students are ELL but I only have 3-4 parents that I know of that speak absolutely no English.

    If I'm sending a quick, positive note home I have a coworker read it. However, I think that's asking too much to have them translate or look over my google translated newsletter every single week.
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I don't think you should try to translate things yourself unless you are fluent in the language.

    Do you have someone in your district who is a designated translator? If not, then you shouldn't really be expected to send things home in another language. Send notes home in English.
     
  7. jteachette

    jteachette Comrade

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    We are required to send our notes to the office for translation, and send the notes home in both languages(English and Spanish).
     
  8. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    We have a parent coordinator who will translate for me. If it's a short letter about a field trip I'll give her a copy a few days in advance and ask her to translate it for me. If it's for a note, I'll usually have her just call. That way I can be there and the parent can respond right away - otherwise if I send the note home, the parent sends it back in Spanish and I need to get that translated and possibly another note in response. Also, not all of the parents can read/write Spanish or English.
     
  9. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I think it is ridiculous for a school system to expect its employees to communicate in whichever language the parent prefers. What a waste of time and expense.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I typically have families whose home language is Hebrew, spanish, Korean...I'm not going to begin to try and translate my communications into three languages, nor does my school expect me to.
     
  11. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    In my experience, there's usually someone at home who reads English-whether it's an older sibling or one of the other family members. I often have siblings attend meetings with their parents so they can translate for them. My notes go home in English.
     
  12. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    We had a young man join our school last year who spoke a language none of us on his team had even heard of. The chair of our ESL program had to look it up. I can't imagine being required to know how to communicate with his parents in such a language just because his parents wanted to. Google translate can only do so much. And I've seen some doozies of mistakes that came out of it too!
     
  13. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Google translate is awful. So is any other online translation.

    My old school had translators since we had such a high amount of non-English speaking parents. Maybe you can ask your principal to assign a translator in school that could maybe make a few extra bucks?

    My current school almost all parents speak English, but as a second language. One of our teachers doesn't speak Spanish so she does the best she can to communicate. I think the parents appreciate the effort. If you can't get an in-school translator, do the best you can! I think they'll appreciate your attempt, even if you accidentally call them pigs;)
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I just think that it's really short-sighted to be worrying about translating things into Spanish and forgetting that we all probably have at least one or two students who come from families where they speak something other than English or Spanish. What about them? Are they not worth our energy?

    If you can't do it for everyone, don't do it for anyone.
     
  15. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I don't have a solution to this, because there are so many languages out there that it really would be impossible to be able to communicate with parents in every language that's out there. Our office sends everything home in English and Spanish because the neighborhood is predominately Spanish and I'd say more parents are reading the letters in Spanish than in English. I haven't encountered parents speaking any other languages at this school. But when I student taught nearby the population varied more, we had parents who spoke Russian, Arabic and a whole slew of other languages. Through the DOE you could arrange to get translators for any language for parent teacher conferences, but usually the parents offered to bring older siblings or friends to translate. Students who speak another language can take the state math test in any language.

    As far as mentioning the "preferred" language- what about that's the ONLY language the parents speak? I'm sure these people would prefer that they could speak and read English because I'm sure it would make their lives 100% easier, but it's not that simple. I just really feel for those people. I don't have children but I can't imagine how hard it is to send your child to school and not be able to speak the same language as the teacher. Sure you can get someone to translate, but it just makes everything harder.

    I guess because NYC is so diverse these resources for speakers of different languages are easier to come by. I have a lot of empathy for people trying to make a life here who are unable to speak the language. I don't think there's anything wrong with schools requiring things to go home in the parents' home language as long as there as there are tools or resources available to make that happen and that it is available for speakers of any language.
     
  16. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I don't agree with this at all. If you can help some of the families, why not? Why not do the best you can and send home letters in 2 languages? Otherwise, you're overlooking many more students and families.
     
  17. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Somehow I doubt being called pigs would be taken in stride.

    Anything sent home should be done well. Schools simply can't afford to hire someone to translate every school communication into the myriad of native languages that students' families may speak and it seems that translation programs have their glitches.

    Most of the families in my schools understand more English than they can speak proficiently. Others bring a more proficient English-speaking relative to meetings where student progress is discussed. Many consider it in their own best interest to not only understand but to communicate back as best they can in English while also preserving their family heritage, culture and customs.
     
  18. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I have made so many mistakes just this year speaking in Spanish to parents. Not a single one has had an issue with it. They appreciate that I am doing my best to communicate. This has always been my experience.

    I've accidentally called a child retarded. I've said the school is very *****. I've said lunch is penis in salsa.

    I make mistakes, bad ones. And no one has an issue. They either politely correct me, or pretend like I said the right thing. As long as you put in an effort, the parents will appreciate it.
     
  19. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I can't even tell you how poorly that would go over with the administration in my school.
     
  20. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    You may not have run into problems...yet.
     
  21. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Okay whatever.:|
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    OP, check with administration. They're obviously aware of the demographics of your school, and have been dealing with the issue for years.
     
  23. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Lucybelle...you're a relatively new teacher and are still building your reputation. I'm sure you have the best of intentions with trying to communicate with your students and their families. While some may appreciate your attempts at a language that's not your native one, you don't want to run the risk of looking unprofessional and ignorant....it's a bit of a two sided coin.
     
  24. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    It makes sense to me that, if part of the draw of this school in Costa Rica is that it employs native speakers of English as teachers and offers curriculum in English, then the fact that one of the Anglo teachers does make an effort to communicate in the language of the country IS likely to go over well in spite of mistakes. I'll also guess that lucybelle doesn't rely on her Spanish when it's crucial to get information across accurately.

    The OP's situation is different.
     
  25. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    You're right. The OP's situation is different.
     
  26. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Practically all of my students' parents speak Spanish. The only things I have to send home are:

    - 1-page progress reports every trimester
    - IEP meeting notices to be signed & returned
    - Assessment plans to be signed & returned
    - Procedural Safeguards at the IEP meetings

    I use the SEIS computer system for special educators to type up my IEP documents & I think for the exception of the progress reports, they have Spanish versions. Otherwise, I was tired of writing on the outside of envelopes, "Please sign & return to school" in Spanish, so this past summer, I paid $20 to have a stamp made at OfficeMax. I think it was worth it.

    If there's anything else, I use one of those free Eng to Span tanslating websites that I've Googled. Now I know there's formal & informal ways of speaking & there's slightly different variations of Spanish words for certain things, but that's the next closest thing I can do. I can't be bothering the office staff too often and ask them to traslate things for me. Maybe if it's not lengthy, I'll ask them once or twice. This year, one of my two aides speaks Spanish, so I could ask her things too.
     
  27. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Ms. I, be very careful using those websites. They often translate each word separately, which can lead to many problems. It's not just a matter of formal/informal tone or using a different word; they can drastically change the meaning of what you're trying to say. Just try running the translated version back through into English and you'll see some of what could happen.
     
  28. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Bingo.

    For example, let's say you type in "I can fly." You get back "Yo lata mosca." Seems good enough, right? Wrong. Lata is the word for like a tin can, and mosca is the insect that buzzes around. "I tin can insect that buzzes around." Your sentence doesn't make any sense in Spanish.
     
  29. FutureTeacher_1

    FutureTeacher_1 Rookie

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    I didn't read all the replies so I'm sorry if I missed something.

    Half my new class is Arabic and I'm fluent in the language. I decided to not send the supply list home in Arabic too because:

    1. The other teachers didn't and I don't think it's fair to do it when they didn't.
    2. My other ELL students speak Romanian and Spanish at home. I don't want to come across as favoring one language over the other.

    I don't know if in the future I will translate notes home. I guess if parents have a question, they can call or see me and I'd be more than happy to explain.

    My old district was all for translation. This new one, not so much. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.
     
  30. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    You're right. Well, does anyone know any good translation websites that give the true CONVERSATIONAL Spanish version?
     
  31. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Yep.
     
  32. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    What ama and Caesar have said - and they're right - is that those Web sites don't exist. Translation is far from being merely a matter of word-for-word substitution.
     
  33. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    ...and because of that, I'd send my spell-checked, grammatically correct communications home in English. Families will figure out what they need to know. Incorrect, badly worded communications would not be sent home from my school...no matter how well intentioned.:2cents:
     
  34. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Now that I have my stamp made, I don't really have to have anything translated now that I think of it!
     
  35. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    The majority of my kids speak Spanish as a primary language. However, I do have several English-only kids (you may remember from a previous thread about how I have a handful of teachers' kids).

    Thankfully, I am fluent in Spanish. I send home all communication (that comes directly from me) in English and Spanish.

    Anything that comes from the office is in English, Spanish, and Hmong.
     
  36. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Be very, very cautious of these sites. :2cents:

    One day this summer, I tried one of these sites to see how they'd translate my back-to-school letter to parents. When I got the translation, it made very little sense. If I would've sent home what was given to me from the website, I would've looked ignorant!
     
  37. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Not to mention some words are normally used every day in some countries, and are extremely vulgar in others.
     
  38. txmomteacher2

    txmomteacher2 Enthusiast

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    In my class last year, I did have one parent who did not speak English. We also have two billingual classes so they do send home notes in Spanish. If it's important stuff about field trips i usually send home one of the letters from one of them. If it's just about general stuff that pertains to my class only I would only send home an English version. However I told the student that if Mom had any questions she could come ask me anytime. All of her kids spoke English anyway so they could translate for her. Even when we did parent conferences one of her other kids came and helped us commmunicate.
     
  39. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    McGraw-Hill's Spanish for Educators is a great resource, by the way.
     
  40. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    I only send things home in English. I do not think we should have to send anything home in a translated language, nor should we out of convenience.
     

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