Dordt College News

Spanish speakers translate for parent-teacher conferences

January 23, 2012

This fall, six bilingual Dordt students stretched their interpreting skills while also serving members of the Sioux Center community.

“We have seen a need for translators ever since we began to have parents who speak only Spanish,” explains Donna Renes, an English as a Second Language teacher at Kinsey Elementary School in Sioux Center.

“It is a basic right for parents to receive communication from the school in a language they can understand, so we have made an aggressive effort to have all oral and written correspondence in their first language.”

One of the biggest needs is during parent-teacher conferences. In the past, Renes interpreted at a few conferences and also enlisted the help of retired Dordt College foreign language professor Dallas Apol. However, the number of Spanish-speaking families has grown, and the need for quality interpreters remains high.

Kinsey contacted Dordt for help already a few years ago. Since then, the request has turned into an exciting partnership between Kinsey and Dordt College. This fall, more than 100 conferences at the elementary school required an interpreter.

Sanneke Kok, who coordinates academic services for international students, explains that Dordt’s foreign language department looks for ways to serve in the Sioux Center community. Because requests for interpreters are common, Kok and the foreign language department put together an interpreter/translator “bank” of bilingual Dordt students who are willing to volunteer their time. With this bank established, Kok can simply respond to requests and leave the scheduling to those involved.

“It is a huge relief to both parents and teachers to have someone at the conference to interpret,” says Renes.

Kaitlyn Broersma, a junior Spanish and elementary education major, helped at parent-teacher conferences last year and was happy to be asked again this fall.

“I love the practice,” she says. “It helps me grow in my knowledge of the Spanish language and the culture of Spanish-speaking people in the area.”

Aziel Brito Macin, a freshman biology major from Mexico City, explains, “There are many challenges when interpreting, but it helps me learn to be patient, and I also develop my translating skills. I learn to keep my thoughts in order and try my best to keep the essence of a sentence.”

Olivia Gonzalez Yun, a sophomore communication major from Nicaragua, has done a significant amount of interpreting for missionary groups, sometimes for days at a time. Although the interpreting experience at parent-teacher conferences is perhaps more simple and straightforward than the interpretation she has done in the past, she still greatly values the experience.

“It’s wonderful to be able to serve the community around you. I met many families and new people, and I’m definitely encouraged by the love that the parents and teachers have for the children.”

Renes hopes to continue Kinsey’s partnership with Dordt’s Spanish speaking students.

“These students are not only bilingual but also mature. They act in a professional manner and respect the families and the confidentiality of the situations they encounter. The assistance of these Dordt College students has been invaluable,” she says.

The students are eager for the chance to serve the community and to stretch their interpreting skills. Broersma affirms, “It was a great experience, and I will gladly do it again.”


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