Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Speech-Language Pathologists' Collaboration with Interpreters: Results of a Current Survey in California

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Speech-Language Pathologists' Collaboration with Interpreters: Results of a Current Survey in California

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The purpose of this paper is two-fold. One is to inform readers about the need to recruit and hire interpreters, including ones who are trained in working in special education, specifically to collaborate with speech-language pathologists who must assess English Language Learners in their primary language in the public schools, as mandated by U.S. federal law. The second purpose is to present the results of a survey that was carried out with members of the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA).

The U.S. Census Bureau (2015a) recently detailed the hundreds of languages that individuals in the United States speak at home, with a total of 60 million individuals over five years of age (some 21% of the population) speaking a language other than English in the home. Over 350 languages are spoken, including 150 different Native North American languages. The languages most frequently spoken include Spanish, languages of Chinese (of which there are Mandarin, Cantonese, Guan, Yue, Chan, Min and several others which are mutually unintelligible), Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, Korean, and German, all with over one million individuals over five years of age who speak those languages at home (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015a). The use of Spanish far exceeds the use of any other language, with fully 62% of speakers of languages other than English in the home over five years of age using Spanish (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015b). Between 1990 and 2013, the percentage of those who reported not speaking English very well grew from 14 million to 25.1 million, with almost 9% of the United States population over five years of age reportedly speaking English less than very well. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015b).

In the last decade, the number of languages other than English (LOTEs) spoken in California has increased to 207. Californians who spoke a language other than English at home in 2009-2013 included 43.7% of the state, while 19.4% of Californians reported that they spoke English less than very well during that period (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015c). The top 10 languages other than English spoken in the state are: Spanish (65.8% of LOTE speakers), Tagalog (5.0%), Vietnamese (3.4%), Korean (2.4%), Cantonese (1.5%), Mandarin (1.4%), Armenian (1.3%), Persian (Farsi) (1.3%), Arabic (1.0%), and Russian (1.0%) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015a).

The current percentage of speech-language pathologists and audiologists in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) who report they are able to provide services in a language other than English is 7% (or approximately 11,8000 of a total membership of 179,692), and of those, 63% are speakers of Spanish. However, the report does not state what languages are represented by the remaining 27% (ASHA, 2017). Consequently, when assessing individuals who speak languages other than English, most speech-language pathologists must work with interpreters--something which is mandated by special education law in the United States such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004).

Although the importance of assessing children in their first language is clearly stated, the methodology for doing so is not specified. No official guidelines have been written for interpreters who work in special education. However, for a child whose proficiency in English is still emerging or is limited, special education laws in the United States specify that assessments should always be "provided and administered in the child's native language or other mode of communication and in the form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally" (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004, Section 300.304(c)(1)(ii)).

To summarize, there is a great variety of languages spoken in the United States. With one in seven residents born overseas, and one in eleven reportedly speaking English less than very well (U. …

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