5 Tips for Parent-Teacher Conferences with Bilingual Families

Parent-Teacher Conferences with Bilingual FamiliesWhen it is time to plan for parent-teacher conferences, you may have concerns regarding how well you’ll be able to communicate with the parents of your ESL students. The following are five important steps to follow for holding effective parent-teacher conferences with bilingual families.

1. Prepare Materials in Both English and Native Language

When preparing for a conference with parents of ESL students, it’s important to not only focus on spoken communication but also written communication. According to teaching.monster.com, teachers should have handouts prepared in both English and the parents’ native language for the conference. Learn More
The handout should provide a general outline of what will be covered during the conference. The parents will have something to refer to during the conference and information they can look over again when they’re home. If you have several parents who each speak different languages, print information for each language on different colored paper to avoid confusion.
See how our eLearning language services can translate, localize and adjust the design of your learning material for different languages and cultures.

2. Schedule Extra Time

Most teachers have meetings scheduled back-to-back on conference days. Even if the student is doing well and there aren’t any major issues to discuss, simply communicating with someone whose primary language is different from your own will take more time. EverythingESL.net points out that people from countries other than the United States, Canada and Northern Europe do not always follow strict time schedules. Time tends to be more unstructured in many other countries, and showing up 30 minutes after the scheduled time is not necessarily considered late. You’ll need to be aware of this and be prepared to be flexible for any last-minute changes.

3. Arrange for an Interpreter

Talk to the principal or ESL coordinator in your school about having an interpreter available during the conference. Even if the parents can speak a fair amount of English, they may not be familiar with educational terms that will be critical for effective communication. If your school doesn’t provide interpreters, you may want to see if they’re willing to hire an outside service to provide interpreters for the conference. For future conferences, consider training other parents in the school that are fluently bilingual to serve as interpreters. Since there will likely be other teachers who will need the services of an interpreter, collaborate with others regarding scheduling for the interpreter.

4. Meet With the Interpreter Ahead of Time

Adolescent Literacy suggests meeting with the interpreter ahead of the conference just to touch base on important points. Go over what will be discussed and the general timeline of events that will occur during the conference. Ask the interpreter to read through all materials that are to be sent home with the parents before they leave. It’s also important to discuss with the interpreter any questions you may have regarding the culture of where the family is from. Certain types of speech or contact that are acceptable in the United States may prove to be unacceptable for those from another country and culture.

5. Invite the Student

Increasingly, students are encouraged to attend parent-teacher conferences at least in part. Students are a natural link between parents and teachers since they spend quite a bit of time with both. It may be appropriate to have the student wait outside the room for the first part of the conference and be brought in at a later point. They should not, however, be asked to interpret for the conference. A student may not understand the correct words for educational terms when translating into their own language. If there is any negative or difficult issue that needs to be explained, the student may be tempted not to be forthcoming when translating.
ESL conferences don’t have to be overwhelming. With enough planning and preparation, your conferences with ESL parents can be productive and run smoothly.


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