Language access expands in schools

By Sadef Ali Kully

With at least 135 languages spoken in Queens, according to the borough president’s website, the city Department of Education last week announced an expansion of language-access services across the city.

The addition of nine positions for field language access coordinators in the city who help schools connect with interpreters for parents with limited English proficiency to have full access to translation and interpretation services available to them in schools. The nine positions will be based in the seven borough field support centers, around the city and two in Queens and the Bronx. There are currently more than 1,500 voluntary language access coordinators who help connect interpreters through the field office to city schools.

The field language access coordinators oversee volunteers in schools that help the field support centers, according to the Department of Education.

Across the city, at least 192 languages are spoken at home, according to data collected by the U.S. Census between 2009 and 2013. The data also shows that 38 percent of the metro area population ages 5 and over speak a language other than English at home.

“[The city] represents a wealth of different cultures, languages, traditions and beliefs,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Increasing translation and interpretation services to families is a top priority, and a critical part of building strong relationships between schools and communities.”

In December, the DOE started to provide schools with direct access to over-the-phone interpreters. In the past, schools had to contact the Translation and Interpretation Unit, which then connected the call—a step that has been eliminated.

According to the Department of Education, the new positions will help reduce wait time for an interpreter and allow teachers and staff to call non-English-speaking families after business hours.

The city DOE said interpreters are available in 200 languages In the first month of the new program, over 1,500 calls were made from schools requesting language support in 43 languages.

This month citywide and community education councils will also receive additional language support. The Translation and Interpretation Unit will expand translation support beyond notices and agendas to include resolutions and bylaws, while interpretation support will be extended beyond scheduled, special and business meetings to cover committee and annual meetings.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

More from Around New York