NYC Schools Are Often Lost In Translation
Feb 27, 2006
But Mayor Pledges More Money To Cover More Languages
Kerri Lyon Reporting
(CBS) PROSPECT HEIGHTS Walk the halls and the classrooms of International High
School in Brooklyn, and you'll hear 19 different languages spoken. And while the
students all learn, and use English, in school, the job of translating what's
happening to parents is often left up to their kids.
"Wherever my parents go they have to take me with them," says 15-year-old Hawa
Kebe, who speaks French and the African language Fulani.
40 percent of city students come from families where English isn't the first
language. On Monday, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the City Council announced a deal
to expand translation services in schools, and require schools to use them.
"Every parent has a right to know what is going on with their child at school,"
Currently, the Department of Education can translate letters, report cards and
offer telephone translators in eight languages. But with an extra $2 million
committed Monday, schools hope they can soon offer more.
"It becomes very challenging to communicate with parents, specifically in
certain languages like Bengali or Hindi where we have little to no
representation among the staff," said International High School Principal
And the results are costly. Often, the language barrier discourages parents from
taking part in their child's education.
"When they don't understand they get frustrated and they don't really get
involved," said Chime Dolma, whose family speaks Tibetan.
With so many different languages, city officials admit they can't satisfy every
parent all the time. But at least now, schools are required to try.
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