Translating for parents aides students in learning useful skills

Morgan Barnes

More stories from Morgan Barnes

Studies have shown that one in five U.S. citizens speak a language other than English at home. For senior Lupita Reyes and junior Keila Chavez this statistic hits home for both of them. Both Reyes and Chavez translate for their mothers.

“My dad … knows English, and he learned it just from listening to other people. But my mom, she has just had a difficult time learning it,” Chavez said. “Whenever she has an appointment then I will have to go over there and translate for her. But when we go to the store then she is fine, she knows numbers and stuff. It’s only if someone tells her something, then she will be confused for a second.”

Helping their mothers to understand English is not as easy as it may seem at first. Besides the language barrier, there are various other obstacles that they must work through to make the translation.

“It’s really difficult sometimes because there’s different words for different meanings, so you just have to figure out which one. It’s pretty hard because sometimes, she won’t understand it so you have to explain even more,” Chavez said.

Although both of their mothers do not speak fluent English, it is not because they have not tried to learn. The translation from English to Spanish or vice versa is not exact, and this can make learning more complicated than most might think.

“She kind of tries to figure things out or tries to get help. But, she’ll try to figure it out by herself before she asks for any help,” Reyes said. “It’s harder for her to learn, and to like grasp different words or to understand the meanings of different words.”

Translating for their mothers affects certain special occasions, but it can also influence everyday activities as well.

“She doesn’t like going to the movies because she doesn’t know what’s going on. If she ever does then she will just laugh whenever we laugh, and then we will just have to explain to her what is happening,” Chavez said.

Not only does making the translation from English to Spanish or vice versa benefit their mothers, but it also teaches Reyes and Chavez a skill set that they can use for the rest of their lives.

“(Translating for my mom) helps me improve more on my Spanish. It goes both ways, translating stuff from Spanish to English or even from English to Spanish,” Reyes said. “ It’s a good thing. Like when you grow up and you have a job, translating is a big thing that they ask for. Especially if you speak another language. So translating for her now is going to help me in the future.”