When I called the Philadelphia school district recently, I heard a message on the voice-mail system saying that if I wanted to speak with someone in a language other than English or Spanish, I could “press 1 for a language hotline.”
That was the first time I learned of a school system having a message on its voice-mail system telling callers that interpreters are available in languages other than English or Spanish. It occurs to me, though, that the message may not be as useful as it seems, given that a caller has to know enough English to understand the gist of the message to get to the hotline.
I asked Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the 161,000-student district, for more information about the interpretation services. He said district headquarters has in-house interpreters for Spanish, Chinese, Khmer, Nepali, and Russian. Otherwise, the office of translation and interpretation services oversees telephone interpretation for services in nearly 180 other languages.
Formalizing translation and interpretation services is one way that I’ve seen school districts improve over the years in making connections with parents who are immigrants.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.