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May
12

A Taste of Anxiety

For my birthday and spring break last month, I was fortunate enough to celebrate in Mexico with my husband, Chris, and some friends. We spent the first part of the trip in Puerto Vallarta. It is a remarkable city filled with buzzing culture, delightful foods, beautiful beaches, and lovely people. As one of Mexico’s tourist destinations, many local staff speak English in addition to their native language. This was much appreciated by the majority of our group since we are English speakers trying out our tiny bits of conversational Spanish on occasion. 

alt=Friends at the beach in Puerta Vallarta. From left to right: Andrew, Chris, and Jena.

The second part of our trip took us to Mexico City to continue our vacation with our close friend, Andrew, who recently moved there for a new job. It was wonderful getting to see where he resides and to be guided through the city by someone who knew his way around. It was especially nice having a guide who is multilingual and speaks Spanish fluently. This is because I naively overestimated the number of English speakers in Mexico City based upon my previous international travels to tourist destinations in non-English speaking countries. 

Despite a language barrier for my husband and me, Andrew confidently led us through a handful of the city’s neighborhoods, to some amazing restaurants, and to some of the “can’t miss” sites to see. One of our adventures included a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the architectural site of the pre-hispanic city of Teotihuacan. It has gone down in my book as one of the coolest experiences I’ve had to date!

Vantage point from a hot air balloon of one of the two remaining pyramids of Teotihuacan.
Overall, the trip was refreshing, enlightening, and a total blast until the language barrier came for us the morning of our flight home… 

It was 6am and we were pulling up to terminal one, the domestic terminal, because Andrew was also flying out to venture to another part of Mexico the same morning. Thankfully, before getting out of the Uber, he had chatted with the driver about taking us to the international terminal--terminal two--upon his departure.

So we said our goodbyes, Andrew walked into the airport, and we got back in the Uber. Expecting the Uber to head to terminal two per the conversation he had with Andrew, Chris and I buckled up and I said, “Terminal two,” to which the driver began responding to me in Spanish as we stayed parked at terminal one.  

My anxiety was immediately awakened, and Chris and I looked at each other with confusion. I began asking myself what are we going to do? Why isn’t he driving? How far is terminal two? Is there another way we could get there? 

I decided to get out of the car and look around for someone that could possibly interpret for us. The only language I was hearing was Spanish, and there were not that many people around. Failing to find an interpreter, I got back in the car and pulled out Microsoft Translator on my phone. Now, I wish I could tell you a success story about how this app magically saved us and opened lines of communication in this moment, but sadly, it did not. Instead, when I would put the phone close enough to the driver for my speaker to pick him up, he would stop talking. I tried asking him to repeat in Spanish (though I wasn’t even conjugating the verb correctly), but he remained silent. 

With my anxiety becoming palpable, I decided to give Andrew a call, though I wholeheartedly did not expect him to answer. Luckily, he answered my call. I explained that the Uber driver wasn’t leaving terminal one and that we were not able to figure out why. I then put Andrew on speaker phone so that he could talk to the driver. 

After a short conversation between the two of them, the call went silent. I could tell Andrew was still on the line, but he was not replying to my frantic calls of his name and asking him what’s going on. I look over at Chris and think, what are we going to do? Why isn’t Andrew answering me? At this point, I made the decision to get out of this car and be done with the ride. Chris and I got out, and I began knocking on the trunk to communicate that we needed to get our luggage out. 

Our efforts were gratefully met with the driver saying, “Hey, hey!” and pointing to his phone. This is when I noticed that Andrew had requested a new Uber ride with our driver to get us to terminal two. With some cautious relief, we got back into the car. The driver accepted the ride on his app, and off we went. 

I couldn’t have been more relieved to arrive at terminal two. As it turns out the terminals are far enough apart that we couldn’t have easily walked, and navigating a way there would likely have proven just as stressful as our Uber situation due to the language barrier. 

Heading into the international terminal and being greeted by someone who was multilingual began to tamp down my anxiety, though now I was feeling somewhat nauseated from the stress. Regardless, we had made it with enough time to get checked in, through security, and to grab a snack before our flight departed. 

I’m sharing this story with you because it highlighted the anxiety and full body stress I felt in a single experience in which a language barrier was present. Upon reflection of this moment, I’m filled with empathy for our English learners in our schools and communities. This is because as someone who knows some Spanish and how to use translation technology, all my knowledge flew out the window in a time of elevated stress. Your students and families have likely felt the same way in more than one instance. 

It is my hope that this story helps you reframe the experiences of your students and their families who are learning English. Could you be offering a more inclusive experience at your beginning and end of the year events and gatherings with Office 365’s Present Live in PowerPoint? Have you implemented apps like Microsoft Translator during conferences or meetings to support equitable communication? Have families been included in the training of their student’s assistive technology through an interpreter? 

We know there are many languages present in our public schools and not all languages are supported through translation technologies, but we are here to help you navigate those waters. Microsoft, iOS, and Google do have some great translation tools for many languages though. It would be my pleasure to support your use of any Microsoft or Windows based tool as the Microsoft/Windows PATINS Specialist. Email me any time! Plus, our passionate English Learner Specialist, Amanda Crecelius, would be happy to support language access for your multilingual students. 

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May
05

Educational Interpreters: Considerations for Schools

Educational Interpreters: Considerations for Schools Educational Interpreters: Considerations for Schools

This week's blog is brought to us by our guest blogger and Language First founder, Kimberly Sanzo, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL. Kimberly's biography is at the bottom of this blog. 

Educational interpreters are an important part of the educational team and their work in providing language accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students is critical. However, it’s important for school districts contemplating hiring an American Sign Language (ASL)-English interpreter for their DHH student(s) to consider a few vital factors. First, what is the language level of the DHH student? If the student has strong signed language skills, they may benefit from having the academic information interpreted into a visual language. If, however, the student has strong oral language skills and minimal signed language skills, then perhaps there needs to be a discussion as to the ultimate goal of having an educational interpreter in the classroom. If the goal is for the student to learn some ASL, then simply being provided an interpreter will not help them acquire a new language. Educational interpreters do not provide language instruction, and it would not be fair to expect the DHH student to attempt to acquire a new language while simultaneously trying to take in academic information. Additionally, having information interpreted into a language they barely know will likely be unhelpful. 

Most crucially, if the student has minimal signed language skills and minimal oral language skills, an interpreter may not be beneficial. In fact, providing an educational interpreter to a DHH child with no complete first language may be more harmful than helpful. As Caselli et al. (2020) assert, there is no evidence that DHH children with language deprivation can overcome their language difficulties from a single language model, even if that model is fluent in the language. School-aged DHH children without fluency in any language will not be able to simply acquire a signed language from an educational interpreter. Rather, they need intensive and purposeful language intervention in their most accessible language as well as plenty of language models and same-language peers with which to interact.

Another important consideration is the skill level of the educational interpreter. In a study by Schick et al. (2005), the authors found that 60% of the interpreters evaluated did not have the skill level necessary to provide DHH students with full access to the curriculum. This may be a result of state-by-state variation in requirements for interpreter skill levels. Many states don’t have standard requirements for educational interpreters, while others have standards that are gravely below the needs of DHH students (National Association of Interpreters in Education, 2021). Thus, it is critical that the school properly vet ASL-English interpreters who may be working with their students by ensuring they have an objective measure of adequate skill level. 

This is vital for a few reasons. First, interpreters themselves may not be able to accurately estimate their skills. This is due to a human cognitive fallacy called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, or the tendency for less-skilled individuals to rate themselves as highly skilled, and highly skilled individuals to rate themselves as less skilled. Indeed, Fitzmaurice (2020) found that the least skilled interpreters overestimated their skills, while the most skilled interpreters underestimated their skills. Therefore, a score on a standardized test like the Educational Interpreter Proficiency Assessment (EIPA) can be helpful in offering a more objective evaluation of an interpreter’s skills. Second, less skilled interpreters are less accurately interpreting information for their DHH students (Schick et al., 2005). The lower the percentage of accurately interpreted information, the less access DHH students are getting to academic content. Indeed, Schick et al. (1999) found that “many deaf children receive an interpretation of classroom discourse that many distort and inadequately represent the information being communicated” (p. 144).

Our DHH students need and deserve 100% access to academic information at all times, just like their hearing peers. It is our responsibility to ensure that a.) the student is a good candidate for an educational interpreter (if they are not, other educational placements should be discussed), and b.) that interpreter is highly qualified to provide full language access.

References:

Caselli, N. C., Hall, W. C., & Henner, J. (2020). American Sign Language interpreters in public schools: An illusion of inclusion that perpetuates language deprivation. Maternal and Child Health Journal.  

Fitzmaurice, S. (2020). Educational interpreters and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Journal of Interpretation, 28(2).

National Association of Interpreters in Education (2021). State Requirements for EducationalInterpreters. https://naiedu.org/state-standards/

Schick, B., Williams, K., & Kupermintz, H. (2005). Look who’s being left behind: Educational interpreters and access to education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11(1), 3-20.

Schick, B., Williams, K., Bolster, L. (1999). Skill levels of educational interpreters working in public schools. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 4(2), 144-155.


Kimberly Sanzo, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL


Kim is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who is committed to educating parents and professionals on the neurological effects of a late or incomplete first language acquisition for Deaf and hard of hearing children. She received her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Gallaudet University in 2012 and is a board-certified specialist in child language (BCS-CL) through the American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders.

Kim is also the founder of Language First. Language First aims to educate and raise awareness about American Sign Language (ASL)/English bilingualism and the importance of a strong first language foundation for Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children. You can find more information on Language First social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and website.

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Apr
21

Did You Want to Talk About the Weather?


daffodils in foreground surrounded by snow on the ground. Farm house in the background
It’s mid April, so I put away my husband’s heavy Carhart coats, my winter boots and all of the hats and gloves clogging up the entryway and the mudroom. It felt amazing saying “so long!” to fleece and wool. Did I mention that it’s mid April in Indiana? Right on cue, the day after my ceremonious dumping of the hats into the back of the closet, Indiana came back with an inch of snow overnight–on a Monday morning no less. 

The snow melted gradually throughout the day–gone by evening, but it left a little frostbite on my psyche. As a Hoosier, I have trust issues with the natural universe. My weather app predicts 80’s by Saturday, but I’m thinking this wild swing into sweatiness will also mess with my head. 

To quote one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, in one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day: "Did you want to talk about the weather, or did you just want to chit chat?"



For Hoosiers, maybe it’s less chit chat, and more talk therapy. 

Predictability, in general, helps us all to flourish mentally. At PATINS, our staff has a brief weekly meeting where we report progress on our professional goals and ask for anything we might need to move forward. It has become an important ritual for me, and a way to connect with my coworkers as we work remotely all over the state. You educators reading this likely have daily/weekly rituals in your classrooms that make your students feel secure. Would love to have you share some of these in the comments!

rear car window covered in snow with the word
Indiana educators have missed out on a well-loved summer ritual in the past two years as Summer of E Learning events were canceled. For summer 2022 these are being revived as Summer of Learning Conferences. Our PATINS staff will be presenting at many of these events and excited to reconnect with you in person. 

It will probably be a warm day that we’ll gather. Or hot. A storm might blow up unexpectedly. Not ruling out an F5 tornado. I predict 100% we’ll gain some new knowledge or add to our professional network.  But dress in layers.


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