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December 26, 2005

Interpreter training program sought for schools

From: The Grand Rapids Press, MI - Dec 26, 2005

By Julie Smith
The Grand Rapids Press

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP -- They navigate the halls of Northview High School, some hearing with the help of electronic devices and others not hearing the hustle and bustle of everyday high school life at all.

Along the way interpreters are there to provide a friendly face and, more importantly, to facilitate understanding in the classroom.

Northview freshmen Michael Atwood and Katie VanBroekhoven, junior Matthew Converse and senior Nicole Carr rely on interpreters who work as part of the school's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. Going to class without an interpreter is a bleak thought for the students.

"It would probably go horribly, because I wouldn't understand the teacher or what we have to do," Atwood said.

"It'd be hard to learn because you can't understand what they're saying," Converse said.

Robert Anthony, director of Northview's program, is promoting an interpreter training program on the west side of the state.

Working with Grand Rapids Community College, he hopes Grand Rapids becomes the fourth site in the state, besides Lansing, Flint and Detroit, to train interpreters.

"It has been difficult to find enough interpreters. Our program continues to grow, so the number of interpreters is an important issue," Anthony said.

Bernard Manker is with the Department of Language and Thought at GRCC, and he said the community college is working on a needs assessment to better understand what the interpreter-training program would entail.

If the assessment confirms a program is needed, curriculum would be developed and coursework could be offered as soon as fall 2007.

"(Anthony) is very enthusiastic and a very articulate champion of the interpreter program," Manker said.

The district employs 11 full-time and two part-time interpreters. There are 31 students who use interpreting services in the district. Anthony said Michigan's move from manufacturing to more medical and service-industry jobs requires better communication for his students.

"Communication means more interpreter needs. Without the interpreter being available, then we end up with de-facto unemployment, which is much more expensive to society," he said.

Requirements for educational interpreters are changing at the state level, Anthony said.

He said the difference between educational interpreting and adult interpreting is similar to the difference between how teachers talk to students and how adults talk to each other.

If teachers talked to students like they do to other adults, the students may not learn as well because youths lack the background and maturity of adults.

An educational interpreter has to understand the teacher's intent and properly relay the meaning to hearing-disabled students, Anthony said.

"The certification is changing because it has become clear that interpreting in educational settings is different from adult interpreting," Anthony said. "This occurs because, in educational interpreting, the interpreter must accurately transmit the teacher's intent as well as the words said. Whereas, in adult interpreting, due to the maturity difference, the interpreter transmits what is said," Anthony said.

Students are sometimes linked up and work together with one or more interpreters, depending on the type of class and the needs of the students.

Anthony said if one student's language level is significantly different from another's, the type of interpreting would differ. One student may require American Sign Language, while another would require transliteration, which involves more word-for-word interpreting.

With only 200 certified interpreters in the state, finding substitutes can be difficult, Anthony said, mandating a need for more qualified interpreters.

"I have talked to other programs and we all have barely enough and when someone is sick, substitute interpreting is difficult to find," Anthony said.

©2005 Grand Rapids Press