Interpreter Training for Schools

Wurts Language Services (WLS) has trained bilingual staff in schools to become trained interpreters. The trainings have been developed based on interviews with school bilingual staff, focus groups with parents and Yasmin’s own experience. From this research she developed the material for each training and teaches it in a way she would have liked someone to teach her.

The training is hands-on and includes role plays of real-life situations in schools, community, and other settings. Each participant discovers their own level of bilingualism and identifies next steps needed to become a good interpreter. We’ll do sight translations of materials participants may be using daily, focusing on commonly used terminology that they may encounter in their interpreting assignments.

Yasmin was born, raised, and educated in a small town in Mexico and in Mexico City. She came to live in the United States as an adult and knows firsthand what it is to be an adult immigrant. This gives her an advantage because more than 60% of Hispanics in the United States come from Mexico.

Yasmin been an interpreter for over 30 years and for the last 20 years she has trained bilingual staff to become trained interpreters. Throughout this time, she has been deeply involved in the Latino community in NC, on multiple boards, consulting and participated with multiple nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

WLS Offerings

Spanish Interpreter Level 1 Training at your school

A two-day training course for groups of bilingual staff to introduce basic interpreter skills, techniques and expectations.

Spanish Interpreter Level 2 Training at your school

This continuation of Level 1 offers additional practice and critique, along with a deep-dive into handling various situations.

Simultaneous Interpreting Training at your school

A one-day training course to give participants tools and strategies to become skilled simultaneous interpreters.

Why is training important?

Here in the United States, “Hispanic”, “Latino”, or “Latinx” people are all considered to be one group. However, each Spanish speaking country has their own culture, language, and customs. For many bilingual staff this is the first time they are with other coworkers from different Spanish speaking countries. The trainings are an opportunity to learn from each other about the different customs, language expressions and culture.

Most participants in the trainings do not have a college degree and might not have the time, money, or desire to pursue one. However, they learned Spanish from their parents or spent time in a Latin American country or in Spain. English is their primary language.

Other participants are originally from Latin America or Spain but have not gone to school in the United States. Some speak English better than others. Spanish is their primary language.

Both groups have the potential of becoming good interpreters if they receive the right training.

Schools must communicate information to limited English proficient (LEP) parents in a language they can understand for any program, service, or activity according to the US Departments of Education and Justice. They must respond to a parent’s request for language assistance and remember that parents can be limited English proficient even if their child is proficient in English. Additionally, schools must provide translation or interpretation from appropriate and competent individuals and may not rely on or ask students, siblings, friends, or untrained school staff to translate or interpret for parents.

The steps school districts must take to provide effective language assistance to LEP parents.
  • Effective language assistance to LEP parents, such as by offering translated materials or a language interpreter.
  • Ensure that interpreters and translators have knowledge in both languages of any specialized terms or concepts to be used in the communication at issue and are trained on the role of an interpreter and translator, the ethics of interpreting and translating, and the need to maintain confidentiality.
  • It is not sufficient for the staff merely to be bilingual. For example, a staff member who is bilingual may be able to communicate directly with LEP parents in a different language but may not be competent to interpret in and out of that language, or to translate documents.
Current language access programs in schools might not be consistent or effective.

In most schools there is some type of language access for LEP’s. Some have translated materials into Spanish or they might have bilingual staff, ESL teachers or teachers’ assistants. In many instances staff must be pulled from their regular duties to interpret for parents and students. They may not have the vocabulary used in school settings in the target language or have the various other skills necessary to be an effective interpreter.

In other cases, the schools depend on the child to act as an interpreter for their parents, since they can speak both languages. However, the children do not have the needed vocabulary in the target language to provide an adequate interpretation. Often, they skip the words they don’t know. The school staff doesn’t know what was said in Spanish.

As a result, neither the parents nor their child learns about the benefits and opportunities the school can offer, or whatever message that was trying to be communicated.

In either case, relying on an untrained bilingual speaker creates potential liability.

Developing an effective bilingual language access program for schools involves significant work on the part of school districts, but the challenge is not unattainable.

Being merely BILINGUAL is NOT enough.

It is not sufficient for the staff merely to be bilingual. For example, a staff member who is bilingual may be able to communicate directly with LEP parents in a different language but may not be competent to interpret in and out of that language, or to translate documents. They need to know the terminology specific to schools, to special education students and terminology used in various kinds of meetings in both languages.

Aside from reading, writing, and speaking two languages, bilingual staff must learn listening techniques, consecutive and simultaneous interpretation techniques, sight translation techniques, delivery techniques for these modes of interpretation and note-taking, they need to know the ethics involved in all interpretations. They also need to know protocols observed in their school and school system.

Being bicultural

As an interpreter, you will be the cultural bridge between both parties. But what if you happen to be one of the recent immigrant teachers being brought to the U.S. from so many different countries? You already speak English (at some level), you may have worked in the schools in your country of origin, but the US is new to you, you have not lived here before. You will need to learn about American culture, particularly in the area you live. You will struggle with various American accents, idioms, customs, adages, and children who may have been raised very differently from those in your original classrooms. You may find the teenage culture here a total mystery from your own experience in another country.

Or, what if you are a 2nd or 3rd generation of Hispanic descent? The American culture is not an issue for you and neither is the school system of which you are a product; however, you don’t know or understand the many cultures of the recent immigrants (Spanish speakers from many countries); therefore, those are the cultures you will have to learn. Your Spanish may be quite different from the Spanish of the recent immigrants. As the interpreter, you will have to find a way to overcome these differences. Although the US Census calls us all Hispanics/Latinos, each of our home countries has a quite different culture, spoken language and accent.

Parents don't know what to expect or how to get involved.
Parents don’t know what to expect from the schools here in the United States, and don’t know how to get involved.

Those that came to the US for economic reasons usually don’t have a level of education much past the sixth grade that would allow them to be able to help their kids in schools. Even when they have higher levels of formal education, they may not have studied subjects such as American History, spelling, or English, therefore they can’t help their kids with homework. Often, they rely on the older siblings to help the younger ones.

In Latin America, schools do not wish or expect parents to be involved as much as parents do here. It seems that in Latin America there is more discipline in the schools. The relationship between students and teachers is more formal and disciplinary in nature. Latin American schools have more structure and parents are not expected to provide as much guidance

In the school systems here, each student is given more personal choice and control over their education and there is a higher greater dependence on parental involvement in the child’s education.

The value system of many immigrant families doesn’t necessarily include high academic standards. Instead, the focus is on family values, hard work, and being a good person. Many students are the only ones in their family who speak English and serve as the interpreters for their parents. This reverses parent-child roles. Students help their parents with issues of money, sickness, eviction and essentially serve as a link between the parents to the outside world.

Yasmin Wurts Metivier translates for Mexican technical school students and staff.
Yasmin Wurts Metivier translates for Mexican technical school students and staff.


According to the Hispanic Research Center almost 19 million Hispanic or Latino children live in the United States, and as of 2018, they accounted for approximately one-quarter of all U.S. children under age 18.

Although Latino children are diverse in terms of ethnic heritage, the vast majority (93%) are U.S-born. Nonetheless, the immigrant experience remains central to many Latino children’s households. Slightly more than half (53%) of Latino children live with at least one foreign-born parent, and research estimates that approximately one-quarter of Latino children have at least one parent who is an unauthorized immigrant.

Based on the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, in the United States:


Hispanic children live in poverty.


Hispanic children has a parent who is an unauthorized immigrant.


Individuals speak a language other than English at home. This means that more than likely the parents do not speak English well.


Greenville County Schools

“As part of our staff development this year, we invited Yasmin Wurts Metivier to provide a one-day introductory level interpreter training. Mrs. Metivier’s workshop presented basic interpreting skills and involved participants in various practical school scenarios. Our bilingual staff members thoroughly enjoyed the training and benefited greatly from the experience, stating that they now feel much better equipped to meet the needs of our growing LEP population.

We highly recommend Mrs. Metivier’s training to bilingual employees of any school or organization with an interest in community interpreting.”

Wilkes County Schools

Wilkes County School System

We were so pleased with the response of our interpreters to and with the training that we immediately decided to arrange for the second session. We will continue to cover the cost of this training with Title I LEA Improvement funds because it has definitely strengthened the professional expectations for our interpreters and improved communication throughout the district.”

Vickie C. Hugger, Ed.D., Director of High School Initiatives, Federal Programs: Title I & Title II

Cabarrus County Schools

Cabarrus County Schools

“Cabarrus County Schools has chosen to require training of all system interpreters in established ethics and standards. Practice is provided until proficiency is reached thereby assuring the system of highly-qualified services to parents and children.

We have found our service proider to be very professional and very well equipped to meet our needs and requirements.”

Marion R. Bish, Ed. D., Director of Federal Programs, Cabarrus County Schools