Thursday, June 16, 2005

Translation Services for Immigrant Parents

It's budget time in New York City, and debate about the Education Equity Act is heating up. The bill would require the Department of Ed to translate school documents into the eight major languages and provide interpreters at school functions. This article in the Gotham Gazette makes some good points about the bill and also gives a little room for an opponent to share his views. I think he is dead wrong - providing translation services does not discourage immigrant parents from wanting to learn English. Immigrants need to learn English for a number of reasons - to get good jobs, communicate in govt offices, hospitals, etc, and the desire to do so wouldn't magically disappear if translators were present at schools. Providing translation services for immigrant parents to would show that New York City values the contributions of immigrants and that it really wants to increase parent participation in schools (I personally know of a lot of parents that don't go to PTA meetings because they can't speak English). But even if James Oddo and other opponents of translation services in school were right, why aren't they making a fuss about the lack of free English classes for immigrants in the City? The New York Immigration Coalition found that more than a million New Yorkers wanted to learn English, but there were only 50,000 classroom seats. You can't complain about immigrants not wanting to learn English if you don't want to fund ESL programs.

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