Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are Teachers Like Translators? (Underappreciated?)

First day of school today in Christian County, Ky, where my mother, as I write, is working with 27 kindergartners experiencing formal education for the first time. Teachers, as a whole, are under-appreciated; I’d argue they’re even more under-appreciated than translators and interpreters by some people. But there is an awareness that you have to have a degree to teach and, in the public system, at least, you have to be certified. There are still misconceptions, though, especially among those who claim teachers get summers off. If there are K-12 teachers out there who truly get their summers off, I would like to ask them who straightens their room after a year’s worth of havoc, purchases materials for the next year to come, and prepares lessons as well as the room for fall. These people obviously don’t teach kindergarten and they sure aren’t my mother, who goes into school for work almost every day all summer long. She is constantly looking for new and different ways of doing, feeling the weight of those 27 impressionable young minds upon her conscious when she lies down at night. Teaching is her calling as language is mine.

My mother has very little to do with translation, except the fact that she raised me and I now run a translation company. But, in some ways, teaching and translation share a great deal. Whether her job is understood by non-teaching America or not, she still does it. She knows that when she teaches her students to read, to recognize shapes and colors, and to play nicely with others, that she’s opening up a new world to them with the earliest building blocks required. Some of her students and families are easier to work with and appreciate her role. Others are and do not. Some care about the education she gives their child; some are so disconnected from their children that they can’t even name where they go to school. She has had first-day students who could already read and write; she has had students arrive the first day who weren’t even potty-trained. “Not every child is the same,” she once told me. “So I don’t treat them the same. I learn what they need and give them that. This one needs help reading, I help him with reading. This one needs help with math, I help him with math.” But Mother is wrong in part; in a way, she does give all of her students the same thing. She gives them all opportunity.

Sometimes we as translators can feel misunderstood and underappreciated. We have some clients who come to us begrudgingly, bitter about their budgets and looking to translate only what will bring them under compliance with the law. They do not see translation as important just as some parents do not value education. But we have also clients who are easier to deal with than others, clients who know the value of the services we offer and how difficult our work is to perform. As translation providers, though, we give them all opportunity.

There’s been a lot of talk in industry circles lately about client education and who will work with the uneducated. Through recent and upcoming NCIHC and ATA efforts, client outreach is prepared to peak. I personally have an article coming out on this topic in the October/November issue of Multilingual. You’ll have to wait until then to learn most of my opinions, but the crux of the matter is, people out there need us, whether they know how to ask for our help or not.

It’s easy for a translation provider to only take on new clients who are seasoned translation buyers. It’s actually in a provider’s economic self-interest, as rates can be higher with this group and less project management time is often required. But with the booming need for language services in our country today, there are lots of clients out there who simply need the opportunity to learn who translators are and what we do.

My mother doesn’t personally pick her students. She never knows until she walks in her room the first day what she’s going to get. But she loves them and she educates them just the same, regardless of what they know before they get there. She loves them. And today, on her first day back, for her 19th year of teaching, I just had to take the opportunity to say I appreciate it.

1 comment:

Kirti Vashee said...

I have a daughter in the Teach for America (TFA) program - she teaches in a school with "under privileged" kids and last year she was successful in closing the achievement gap between her students and the "best" students at upper middle-class school districts in the state.

She will have to find a new job after this year, as she is struggling to make ends meet on her teacher salary even though she loves teaching. So she is thinking of going back to college to get a professional degree to be a therapist.

Have you seen this: