Classroom Interpreters - Interpreters and Children - Interpreting and Language
Scaffolding Language Learning
Teachers and other adults modify their language to match the language level of students. This type of modification is called “scaffolding.” All students (including adults) learn better when the teacher scaffolds or adjusts his/her instruction to the level of the student.
Effective communication occurs when an adult speaks in language a child can understand yet still challenges learning. The goal is to speak slightly above the child’s level so he/she can learn and grow. When a deaf student’s language is similar to his/her classmate’s, the interpreter can relay the teacher’s words and peer interaction without modifications.
When a student does not have language skills comparable to those of his/her hearing classmates, an interpreter may need to scaffold or support language learning. It may be important for the interpreter to modify the teacher’s language to make it more appropriate for a student with delayed language.
Scaffolding can involve making language and vocabulary simpler. The interpreter may change a teacher’s long and complicated sentences into simpler, shorter sentences. The interpreter may add definitions of terms that she/he anticipates might be new or difficult for the student. She/he may use several words that mean the same thing. Interpreters also may provide more explanation than the teacher does by providing background information.
Any modifications of the teacher’s language and vocabulary should be discussed and approved by the educational team. The deaf educator and speech pathologist can provide the interpreter with information about what types of language and vocabulary may be difficult for the student. The educational team should monitor these modifications to ensure that the classroom language is not made too simple. Effective scaffolding means that the adult adjusts his/her language but continues to challenge the student.