Language Interpreting in Education Settings: A Growing Specialization

Sep 18, 2019

Language interpreting in public schools and other education settings is a growing and expanding specialization throughout the U.S. In the same way medical and legal interpreting grew and professionalized over the last 20 years, Liberty Language Services is proud to be at the forefront of this trend, providing training and support for our interpreters as this important area of community interpreting becomes its own area of specialization and career opportunity.

Why Do We Need Education Interpreters?

As the U.S. population continues to diversify, the need for education interpreters in schools – and the professional opportunities linked to this – also grow. Signs of this are everywhere, including these listed by Barry Olsen and Katherine Allen in their excellent article on the subject in the Interpret America blog:

  • Education interpreters now make regular appearances at regional and national interpreting conferences.

  • Some school districts have dedicated interpreter and translation staff positions and are seeking professional training for them.

  • Education interpreting tracks are popping up in community interpreting programs.

  • The availability of short course and conference sessions on education-specific interpreting topics is growing.

  • For some language service companies, filling education-related appointments makes up a large part of their business.

  • Demand is up for a code of ethics, standards of practice and training curriculum targeting the unique demands posed by education settings.

What Does an Education Interpreter Do?

An education interpreter typically acts as the liaison between the teacher and students, communicating information to ELL students, the hearing-impaired, and others who may face difficulties understanding English. Especially in the field of education, translators must possess skills of compassion in order to support shy and introverted children. They must also have an intuitive, informed ability to comprehensively convey content at the appropriate language level for the child.

In addition to accompanying students to translate verbal discussions, education interpreters also translate lesson plans and written material for students who struggle to write or understand English.

What Is Effective Interpreting

Education interpreters use specialized skills to help students learn effectively in the classroom. One such skill is scaffolding, a technique used to simplify complex language for children who do not meet the average language capabilities within the classroom. Translators identify subject matter that is difficult for children to comprehend but make sure not to oversimplify the learning material.

Educational translators must be emotionally sensitive and culturally aware in order to help students succeed. Students who need translators often face many challenges, like adapting to American curricula and teaching styles, feeling alienated, and realizing that the ‘standard’ curriculum can feel exclusive and insensitive to cultural nuances. Educational translators are not just translating objective material to students, but guiding them through the emotional ups and downs of the classroom.

How Can Liberty Language Services Help?

Liberty Language Services works with a growing number of public school systems providing interpreter services and has developed specialized training for its pool of language interpreters. The goal of the training is to help interpreters to prepare better when working in public school settings and the variety of assignments and meetings that take place. In the future, this training will be made available to the interpreter community, and customized training can be developed for larger organizations such as public school systems.


Education interpreting opens up a whole new field of specialization for interpreters, and offers crucial services to ensure that schools are able to communicate with students, parents, guardians and families that are LEP (limited-English proficient) and that those LEP’s have equal access to information and services provided by school systems. To get updates on future training for education interpreting, sign up for our e-newsletter The Beat here.

Photo Credit: Maria Diaz

Liberty and the Community