Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lost in Translation

First of all, I apologize for being a bad blogger. I thought it was really sweet that people were responding to my post until I realized today while reading the class announcements and subsequently the blog rubric that that’s a part of the grade (If my brain was on sometimes, I’d be dangerous). So I’ll be responding to everyone this week (and make my best effort to respond to your responses).

Anyway, I was thinking a lot about how I could integrate a blog into my own class as a part of parent outreach/keeping families informed. My initial plan for this post was going to be a cutesy post about my kids helping me come up with ways we could use a blog in our classroom (maybe another time). Then, I was thinking about my students and how fun it would be to show their families what we’re doing in our class, and then it hit me—half of my parents wouldn’t be able to read what I’m writing right now.

In the past decade theHispanic/Latino population in Montgomery County has doubled. I do a lot of reflecting about how being in first grade has evolved, as this has been my 20th year since being in first grade. I honestly cannot remember having a Hispanic classmate (I also went to an MCPS elementary school). Of my current first grade students, more than half of the students are of Hispanic or Latino descent. It’s not to say that none of their parents can speak English, but for all of my students of Hispanic or Latino descent, their parents want to receive any information from school translated into Spanish.

Once upon a time in Spanish class in high school, Ms. Martin was doing a lot of this…

 and not a lot of paying attention.
Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and tell my 16 year old self that Spanish is something you actually WILL use one day (Chemistry and Calculus… well, you were right about those). So outside of kicking myself constantly about blowing off Spanish, I have the following options;

1)      Publish an all English blog, which will be great for parents who can read English (I have also failed to mention our students whose parents speak Vietnamese, Chinese, French, etc.) and thereby alienating or making those families feel like they’re not important.

2)      Ask one of the two Spanish speaking staff members at my school to translate my blog. While yes, if I published this on a monthly basis, that might be enough time, but I believe the purpose of blogging is that it’s supposed to be a current and up to date posting of the ongoings in the class. The other issue is that the staff members who do speak Spanish translate every other school issued document (out of the goodness of their hearts).

3)      Use Babblefish or another translation site to post translated versions of entries. While I’m sure this would be the most viable option, there was an incident where a staff member at my school used the site to translate a note home about school policy on bringing toys and somehow something got translated to say something about our principal’s posterior (true story).

 So how do you overcome wanting to reach out to parents while not ostracizing them? What do teachers do for blogs, websites, or any other social media when they’re trying to reach ALL parents, no matter their language?


  1. Jenn,

    This certainly sounds like a challenge. While I was reading your post, the first thing I thought about was a translation website... but your story about your principal made me think otherwise! I was truly stumped after reading your post because I've never been in this type of situation and I, unfortunately, only speak English. I did find an article on the National PTA's website called Overcoming Obstacles to Parent Involvement ( that addresses this issue. It offers fantastic ideas for parents of students who do not speak English. Unfortunately, there aren't recommendations for online resources. I still think maybe having a link to a translation website would be beneficial. (Maybe you'd just want to add a disclaimer.) :)


  2. Fascinating entry. I'm very interested in these issues. I'd not thought about the possible benefit of translating a blog into Spanish. (I should explain, too, that Rodrigues--my husband's family name-- is Portuguese, not Spanish. It's just coincidental that I've lived in heavily Spanish-speaking areas, such as Brownsville, Texas.) Your story about the translation being wrong is both hilarious and scary!! I'll keep thinking about this issue and try to find examples of teachers' blogs in Spanish. I think I'll also write to one of my friends (a teacher) in Brownsville and ask for her thoughts on this.

  3. I deal with the same issues - and would love to hear if you find a solution! One thing would be to use students to share with their parents - I find my students are often able to translate for their parents - at least much better than I can! I also wonder if you could find a parent volunteer who would be willing to translate at least some of the important posts.

    It would be great to get parents involved as well, but maybe it would be easier to start with students, using ideas like virtual field trips.

  4. Translating your posts into Spanish would be an impressive undertaking. I would check to see if your blog would receive the traffic you’re hoping for. I have to say the majority of my parents do speak English, but very few actually check my website for updates even though I email it out every week as part of a newsletter. It would be unfortunate to put all this work into the blog and not have the audience you’re hoping for.

    I also have to admit that I, like you, should have taken more Spanish. The last time I was in Spanish class was my freshman year of high school. I’m in awe of my colleagues who are fluent speakers. I wish I could have peeked into the future to see how useful knowing and speaking the language would have been.

  5. Translating your posts is a wonderful idea.
    I always translate report card comments and interim reports for my Spanish-speaking parents before sending those home. Otherwise, there is no point in writing a half a page report. My first year of teaching, I had only one student whose parents did not speak English, so I asked a colleague of mine to translate it for me. However, during the recent years, I had in average of 7-9 Hispanic students and I felt uncomfortable asking for help. Now, i use on-line translators. After reading about your principle, I might need to find someone to edit the Spanish version for me before sending it home :).

  6. Wow, I'm so amazed by the number of parents you have that do not speak English. That's a huge extra responsibility to translate comments. I'm sure it's appreciated though!