LEP Students and The Role of Translation Agencies

by: Jim Maziejka

Language is the primary tool of communication that helps people to interact with one another. It is a fundamental aspect of human culture and civilization that helps to share ideas, thoughts, emotions and information. Language barriers can be a significant challenge for individuals in the US who speak a language other than English, particularly in K-12 schools.

Limited English Proficient (LEP) students face numerous obstacles in their academic careers, impacting their academic success, and, ultimately, their future opportunities. Language translation services are essential to help LEP students overcome these barriers and excel academically.

What is Limited English Proficiency?

Limited English Proficiency (LEP) is a term that describes individuals who have limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English. These individuals are often immigrants, refugees or individuals whose primary language is not English. LEP students face significant hurdles  in the classroom, as they may struggle to understand instruction, communicate with teachers and peers, and  complete assignments to the best of their ability.

Challenges Faced by LEP Students

LEP students face numerous challenges when it comes to academic success. Here are a few of the challenges they face:

Language Barriers

One of the most significant challenges is language barriers. When students do not understand the language of instruction, they may have difficulty understanding the material presented in class. This can make it challenging for them to participate in class discussions, complete assignments and prepare for exams. 

Additionally, LEP students may need help communicating with their teachers and peers, which can lead to social isolation and a lack of engagement with school.

Cultural Differences

Another significant challenge faced by LEP students is cultural differences. Cultural differences can impact how these students approach learning and interact with their teachers and peers. Some cultures may emphasize group work, while others may value individual achievement. This can create challenges for LEP students who may not be familiar with the cultural norms of their new environment. 

Role of Translation Agencies in Addressing Challenges Faced by LEP Students

Translation services are an essential tool to help school districts overcome challenges LEP students may face in academic settings. When school districts partner with translation agencies, they are able to translate materials such as workbooks, handouts and tests into the native language of LEP students. This will help LEP students understand the material presented in class, and level the playing field, allowing them to participate fully in class discussions, complete assignments and study for exams. 

Translation agencies can also help to address the cultural differences that LEP students may face. By providing translations of cultural norms and expectations, teachers can help LEP students understand the cultural context of their new environment. This reduces social isolation and increases engagement with school. 

Limited English proficiency students face significant difficulties in the classroom. They often need help fully understanding and participating in classroom instruction,  leading to lower academic performance and graduation rates. K-12 schools are responsible for providing LEP students with the necessary resources and support to ensure their academic success and equity in the classroom.

The Role of Translation in Supporting LEP Students

Translation agencies are an essential resource for school districts in their efforts of helping LEP students achieve success in the classroom. Here are some of the key roles that translation agencies play in supporting LEP students:

Access to Instructional Materials

Translation agencies will help ensure that LEP students access the same instructional materials as their English-speaking peers. This includes textbooks, handouts and other materials used in the classroom. By providing translated materials, schools can help Limited English Proficient students understand the content and participate in classroom discussions. 

For instance, if a student is a native Spanish speaker, having textbooks and handouts translated into Spanish can help them better understand the material being taught in the classroom. Access to instructional materials can help the student to engage more effectively with the subject matter and contribute to class discussions.

Access to Assessments

Assessments play a critical role in the educational process, as they help teachers understand what students have learned and where they need additional support. However, assessments can be challenging for LEP students, as they may need some help  understanding the questions or instructions. 

By providing translated assessments, schools can ensure that LEP students are able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills accurately.

If a student is taking a math exam but struggles with English, providing a translated version of the exam in their native language can help ensure that they are able to demonstrate their understanding of the math concepts being tested, rather than being hindered by their limited English proficiency.

Communication with Teachers and Peers

Effective communication is critical for academic success. LEP students may struggle to communicate with teachers and peers, which can lead to misunderstandings and frustration that can hinder student learning. 

Translation agencies will help facilitate communication by providing students with resources to help them understand and participate in conversations with teachers and peers. Often, an interpreter can be sent to the school to help the LEP student and their family communicate with the school’s teachers and staff.

Parental Involvement

Parental involvement is a key factor in student success. However, LEP parents may face complications in communicating with school staff and understanding school policies and procedures. The translation of school newsletters, press releases and handbooks will help facilitate more clear communication between LEP parents and school staff. Translating these documents will improve the level of involvement from parents and family members, and support student success. 

Compliance with Legal Requirements

Many states and districts have legal requirements related to language access for LEP students and their families. By providing translation services, schools can ensure that they meet these legal requirements and avoid potential legal liabilities. 

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act requires schools take adequate steps to ensure that such LEP persons receive the language assistance necessary to afford them meaningful access to their services, free of charge. The guidance also clarifies for health and social service providers, and members of the public, that a recipient/covered entity must ensure that eligible LEP persons have meaningful access to programs and services. 

Closing Out: LEP Students and Translation Services

LEP students face numerous challenges in academic settings, including language barriers, cultural norms, differences in academic background and prior knowledge. Having a trusted school translation agency as a partner of the school district is an essential tool that can help students overcome these challenges and succeed academically. By providing translated materials, teachers can ensure that LEP students understand the material being presented in class and have access to the information they need to succeed.

While translation can be  challenging, following best practices and using a variety of translation methods, schools and institutions can ensure that LEP students receive the support they need to excel.

Pierian Spring Group helps translate documents for K-12 schools nationwide, in over 150 languages. Learn more about our services, and contact us for a project estimation

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