Classroom Interpreting

Regular Education Teachers - Potential Limitations

Through teamwork, the teacher and the educational interpreter can work together to overcome some of the limitations that accompany an interpreted education. Each student is unique and the educational team needs to understand some of the issues that may come up with an interpreted educational placement. Simply providing an educational interpreter does not ensure educational access to the general curriculum and may not result in adequate yearly progress – the goal for all students.

Some of the potential limitations of educational interpreting include:

Although the educational system would not hire a teacher who does not possess excellent English skills, many interpreters are hired even though they have poor sign language and interpreting skills. The inadequate skills of the interpreter often lead to a teacher’s well-designed and delivered lesson being reduced to unintelligible and fragmented concepts. As a result of the interpreter’s inability to convey the teacher’s message effectively, the student’s ability to learn is severely affected.

If you have concerns about whether the interpreter is qualified to provide access to your classroom and curriculum, you should discuss these concerns with the IEP team that is responsible for ensuring an appropriate education.

There are some simple rules that can help create a visually-accessible learning environment:

  • Slow down and don’t talk during looking time − Slow down and stop talking to give the student a few moments to look at the visuals. In this way, the student does not need to coordinate looking at the interpreter and the visual at the same time.

  • Require other students to raise their hands and be identified as a speaker − Interpreting spontaneous outbursts is challenging. It is often difficult for the deaf or hard of hearing student to know who is speaking. Is it Mary, who always has the right answer, or Molly, who likes to make jokes?

  • Let students know where to look − Hearing students know where to look because they are able to see a teacher’s gestures and follow his/her gaze. However, the deaf or hard of student may need to be explicitly told where to look.

  • Use visual materials and writing as learning supports − Visual materials and writing on the board or overhead projector are great learning supports. Use diagrams, photos, figures, vocabulary maps and other vocabulary materials to provide visual support for deaf or hard of hearing students who are visual learners.