Language Support Services Guidelines

  • Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Office of Engagement helps bridge the communication gap between RPS and linguistically diverse parents by providing translation (written) and interpretation (oral) support to RPS schools and departments. The use of interpreters with parents is essential to the educational process. Every reasonable effort will be made to provide needed services and support to the parents of children of the English Language Learning (ELL) Program and other parents who do not understand, speak, or read English. It is the belief of this school system that parent involvement is an essential part of providing a quality educational setting for children. Language support services are offered free of charge to parents and can be requested by a RPS employee.

    Interpreters versus. Translators 

    Language interpretation is generally understood to be "the restating of spoken language in another language". Interpreters are distinguished from translators; translators work in written documents, not oral interpretation. Translation of most documents will be completed by request through the Office of Engagement’s Language Support Services. 

    • Interpreters may be required at parent teacher conferences to discuss the progress and challenges facing the child who is a second language learner. Interpreters should be provided when the parents and teacher are unable to convey relevant information to each other because of an inadequate understanding of each other's language. The parent must be offered the option of having an interpreter in these situations at the expense of the school system. The school system can also ask an interpreter to be present if there is concern that language might be a barrier to providing families important information. 
    • Interpreters should always translate directly the information provided by the school and the families. Explanations and additional information should not be provided without also interpreting that information back to the other party. Questions asked by the families should be interpreted for the schools to answer, not the interpreter. 
    • Children under 18 should never be used as an interpreter in this formal setting nor should the child under discussion play the role of interpreter, regardless of age. Friends and family members should not be used as interpreters. 

    Conditions that Qualify for Use of Language Support Services 

    The use of an interpreter paid for by the Richmond Public Schools should be utilized for educational purposes only. Parent/teacher conferences, parent meetings, and concerns/questions about school by the family all qualify for a paid interpreter. 

    Situations that do not qualify for a RPS-paid interpreter include family issues outside of school, social services, health needs (except those issues raised by the school), legal issues (unless it involves educational issues), etc. It is difficult to predict all possible circumstances in which an interpreter may be needed. If there is any question if an interpreter should provide services to a family, please call Language Support Services at 804-584-7919.

    The same interpreter guidelines apply for interpreting services required for students with disabilities under IDEA or Section 504 or their families. 

    Accessing Services and Turnaround Time Reminders 

    Please consider the translation turnaround time when planning for projects. Turnaround time depends on project word count and complexity. Please note that turnaround calculations are approximate and translations could take longer than expected, depending on the current workload. To submit an interpretation (oral, in person) or a translation (written) request, use our request form.

    Guidelines for Submitting a Translation Request: Schools and Departments 

    • Requests need to be submitted at least ten (10) school days in advance of the event date. Keep in mind that delivery dates are directly linked to word count and current work load. 
    • Word documents are the ideal format for request submissions. Make sure "Track Changes" is turned off. While we accept editable PDF, Excel, PowerPoint, and other formats, we do not have the in-house resources for elaborated formatting or desktop publishing work. 
    • Scanned copies are not accepted because they are not editable. 
    • Copyrighted materials should not be submitted for translation unless accompanied by written permission from the publisher or author. 
    • Please be sure to select the appropriate language for translation on the form. 
    • When submitting several files, we recommend compressing them into one zipped file. 
    • Interpretation services are provided at no cost to the client, school and department. 

    Guidelines for Submitting an Interpretation Request: Schools and Departments 

    Interpretation is available for school-related events, parent meetings, student conferences, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) meetings, etc. 

    Guidelines for Submitting an Interpretation Request 

    • Submit one request separately for each language needed. 
    • Requests need to be submitted at least ten (10) school days in advance of the event date. Priority, special or same day requests require approval. We will accommodate short-notice requests based on availability and level of urgency. Resources may limit our ability to fulfill these type of requests. 
    • In order to maximize the effectiveness of interpretation services, the site point of contact should follow the appropriate process steps below. Some steps may not apply in consecutive interpretation settings. 

    Prior to the meeting 

    • Make sure your interpretation request communicates the exact meeting location including room number/name, expected number of people in need of interpretation services, and if the use of interpretation equipment is required. 
    • Confirm parent attendance within one business day in advance and, if they cannot attend, immediately notify and provide the job description as reference for service cancelation. On-site cancelations are strongly discouraged due to the fact that the district still will incur in interpreter costs. 
    • Understand that the role of the interpreter is to communicate from source language to target language accurately and completely. Interpreters are not facilitators or advocates. 

    Once the meeting begins, review the following with participants 

    • Address the non-English speaker(s) directly, not the interpreter. 
    • Speak clearly and in short sentences. 
    • Allow time for the interpreter to speak after each complete thought. 
    • For better communication, periodically make eye contact with the interpreter 
    • Make sure only one person speaks at a time. 
    • Avoid side conversations. 
    • Speak freely - all interpreters are sworn to confidentiality. 

    Prepared Script/Speech/Outline for Large Group Settings/Events/Programs 

    It is highly encouraged to have a finalized script, speech or outline at least 24-48 hours in advance of an event or program (i.e. graduation ceremony, awards assembly, etc.) to help assist the interpreter(s) communicate efficiently and effectively to the limited-English speaking audience. The script/speech/outline is a guide to help the words being interpreted flow smoothly and to keep pace with the program. 

    Language Interpretation Headset Devices 

    The Office of Engagement has available language interpretation headsets, which is a wireless translation system that can accommodate different languages simultaneously with multiple languages spoken at the same time. When using the simultaneous translating equipment, the presenter speaks into a lapel-clip microphone and the listening audience wears an individual FM translation receiver with earphones/headphones/translator earpiece. If your school or department anticipates there is a need to utilize the language interpretation headsets for a group larger than 5 of more limited-English speaking guests (i.e. graduation ceremony, town hall meeting, etc.), please be sure to indicate this requirement on the Language Support Request Form and to inform the Language Support Services Liaison via email or phone at or 804-584-7919. 

    Guidelines for Over-the-Phone Interpretation 

    There are many advantages to requesting a phone interpreter for small interpretation settings. It is fast, simple and convenient. 

    When to Use Over-the-Phone Interpretation 

    Schools and departments should consider using the language line when personnel experience difficulty communicating with limited English speakers efficiently and effectively. Syncroz Language Solutions is the provider of a global telephone based interpretation service. Schools and several departments throughout the district are able to access interpretation services for up to 200 languages. The language line may be useful in the following situations: 

    • To communicate critical information with a limited English speaker; 
    • When in-person interpretation is not available in a specific language, or when geographical location hampers access; 
    • In circumstances where information using simple language, visuals, maps or other communication tools is not understood. 

    Phone interpretation is not meant for large groups, simultaneous interpretation formats, or large conference settings. It can be used for one-on-one meetings, last-minute interpretation needs, or to set up a future meeting that requires in-person interpretation. Educators should not use phone interpretation services for teaching, for classroom use, or for the delivery of daily or regular educational programs or services. (Note: This does not include parent/teacher conferences). Over-the-phone interpretation service is provided at no cost to the client, school or department. 

    Tips for Working with an Over-the-Phone Interpreter 

    Service providers should become familiar with the following tips to help ensure effective and efficient use of the Over-the-Phone Interpretation service. 

    1. BRIEF THE INTERPRETER – Identify the name of your organization to the interpreter, provide specific instructions of what needs to be done or obtained, and let the interpreter know whether you need help with placing a call. 
    2. SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THE CLIENT – You and your client can communicate directly with each other as if the interpreter were not there. The interpreter will relay the information and then communicate the client’s response back to you. 
    3. SPEAK NATURALLY, NOT LOUDER – Speak at your normal pace, not slower. 
    4. SEGMENTS – Try to speak in one or two sentence segments. Try to avoid breaking up a thought. Your interpreter is trying to understand the meaning of what you’re saying, so express the whole thought if possible. Interpreters will ask you to slow down or repeat if necessary. You should pause to make sure you give the interpreter time to deliver your message.
    5. CLARIFICATIONS – If something is unclear, or if the interpreter is given a long statement, the interpreter will ask you for a complete or partial repetition of what was said, or clarify what the statement meant. 
    6. ASK IF THE CLIENT UNDERSTANDS – Don’t assume that the client understands you. In some cultures a person may say “yes” as you explain something, not meaning they understand but rather that they want you to keep talking because they are trying to follow the conversation. 
    7. DO NOT ASK FOR THE INTERPRETER’S OPINION – The interpreter’s job is to convey the meaning of the source language and under no circumstances may he or she allow personal opinion to affect the interpretation. Also, do not hold the interpreter responsible for what the client does or does not say. For example, when a client does not answer your question. 
    8. EVERYTHING YOU SAY WILL BE INTERPRETED – Whatever the interpreter hears will be interpreted. If you feel that the interpreter has not interpreted everything, ask him/her to do so. Avoid interrupting the interpreter while he/she is interpreting. 
    9. AVOID JARGON OR TECHNICAL TERMS – Do not use jargon, slang, idioms, acronyms or technical medical terms. Clarify unique vocabulary, and provide examples if they are needed to explain a term. 
    10. LENGTH OF INTERPRETATION SESSION – When you are working with an interpreter, the conversation can often take twice as long compared with one in English. Many of the concepts you express may have no equivalent in other languages, so the interpreter may have to describe or paraphrase terms. Interpreters will often use more words to interpret what the original speaker says simply because of the grammar and syntax of the target language. 
    11. READING SCRIPTS – People often talk more quickly when reading a script. When you are reading a script, prepared text or a disclosure, slow down to give the interpreter a chance to keep up with you. 
    12. CULTURE – Interpreters are familiar with the culture and customs of the client. During the conversation, the interpreter may identify and clarify a cultural issue they think you are not aware of. If the interpreter feels that a particular question is culturally inappropriate, he/she may ask you to either rephrase the question or help you to gather the information in a more culturally appropriate way. If there appears to be a communication gap, you may wish to ask the interpreter if rephrasing the question or statement could help. 
    13. CLOSING THE CALL – The interpreter will wait for you to initiate the closing of the call. When appropriate, the interpreter will offer further assistance and will be the last to disconnect from the call. Remember to thank the interpreter for his/her efforts at the end of the session.