At Livingtree, we strive to connect schools and families so that schools can communicate effectively and engage parents in their student’s learning. That’s why we’ve built extensive translation features within the Livingtree Engage communication platform.
Effective and open lines of communication are key to building strong family-school relationships that boost family engagement and ultimately drive student success. However, language can easily become a barrier if teachers are not equipped with resources to overcome it. Schools must be able to overcome this barrier and establish effective lines of communication with limited English proficient parents, not only because it’s important to student success, but because it’s the law.
And with today’s school populations growing more ethnically and culturally diverse, it’s never been more important to have translations available for school communications. When you have a multilingual parent population, it’s important to consider these aspects of school translations to improve communication with families and avoid misunderstandings:
If you’re using a parent communication app or system, consider how many languages are available for families to choose from for translation into their primary language. A communication platform with 20-30 languages will cover widely spoken languages and might be enough if you have a smaller multilingual parent population.
But what if you have students whose families speak languages beyond those that are considered “widely spoken?” A communication platform like Livingtree Engage that has over 100 languages available is a better option and will make it easier for teachers and schools to communicate with parents, regardless of language.
When communications are automatically translated into every parent’s primary language, teachers save time and parents feel valued. Teachers don’t have to find the time and resources to provide individual translations, and parents with limited English proficiency don’t have to figure out how to translate and understand their messages. Automatic translations make it easy to create an open line of communication between school and home.
Of course, while technology is making great strides to accurately translate human languages, it’s not always 100% correct. In those instances, you should make sure that parents have the ability to view the original message. Viewing the original message can help parents further understand a message and avoid any confusion from hiccups within a translation.
Two-way communication is a critical aspect of family engagement, so it’s important to have two-way translations as well. This means that you write your message in English and families receive the message in their preferred language. Parents can then write back in their preferred language and you’ll receive the message back in English. This two-way interaction not only opens the lines of communication but also creates a sense of community and builds stronger relationships between staff and families.
When writing in an app or platform that provides translations for families, be mindful of the words you use and attempt to use words that are simple. Patricia Weinzapfel is the author of the book No More Mumbo Jumbo that reveals the complicated language typically used in education and ways that schools can bridge this communication gap. As a guest on one of Livingtree’s Family Engagement webinars, she suggested:
“The simpler the words, the more easily they are translated and understood in other languages.”
Communication that uses simple words, and is free from jargon, slang, and idioms is more easily translated. Just remember that English is a complex language, especially to those attempting to learn it for the first time. Look for complicated words and replace them with simpler words to improve your translations.
Providing a visual with your messages is another strategy to help with understanding and comprehension. Visuals can be in the form of videos, images, gifs, etc., so if you have a parent communication platform like Livingtree Engage that allows you to attach these types of files, don’t be afraid to find visuals to accompany your messages to parents.