Over 20 dedicated translators and interpreters work with the Ames Community School District. Some work directly with written translations and others with interpreting in-person communication, such as parent-teacher conferences. One is taking on the challenging task of becoming a professional interpreter.
Jingtao Wang, a Chinese and Japanese translator/interpreter for Ames CSD since 2010, completed the first two of a three-level training through Heartland AEA. The training is conducted by EveryStep, a non-profit health care and human services organization, delivering Community Interpreter Training since 2018.
“Our focus is to provide the medical and educational community with interpreters who will provide the highest quality interpretation possible,” said Sammantha Ruiz-Yager, Interpretation Business Development Specialist with EveryStep. “Not only does this allow families to access an excellent interpreter, but also to decrease the danger of mistakes due to ad hoc interpreters.”
Through their interpreter training, EveryStep leads individuals through a series of simulated and observed examples, focusing on interpreting messages between individuals in a small setting. A few of the specific training topics included a code of ethics, standards of practice, modes of interpreting, and listening skills.
“The training wasn’t required of me,” said Wang, “but I was longing to have professional training in order to contribute to our diverse families in our district.”
Many complexities exist with oral interpreting, the most critical being to bridge the communication gap. According to Ruiz-Yager, when an interpreter is working, they must listen to the message, decode it, and change it so that it is coherently spoken in the target language. Meaning that, when it is interpreted, it accurately reflects the tone as intended by the speaker.
With staff from other school districts, Wang worked on various topics and quizzes. Eventually, she took a final exam that included written and oral responses. Wang was the only individual in the course to pass training for Story County.
“At home, I worked on memorizing both contents and vocabulary every night,” said Wang of the final test. “Those two weeks reminded me of the days when I was preparing for college exams in China.”
Along with the big accomplishment of completing this complex training, Wang carries a great deal of pride in providing this service for families in the Ames CSD. She reflects on her own time as a parent with a preferred language other than English.
“When I came to America 16 years ago, I couldn’t understand English,” adds Wang. “I missed a lot of information and sometimes I was upset just because of misunderstandings and the barriers between languages and cultures.”
In her free time, Wang serves as the Principal of the Ames Chinese Language Academy, a not-for-profit organization in Ames. She teaches ink painting, a traditional Chinese art, and AP Chinese and Culture. However, Wang states she gains her greatest relaxation in just talking with her sons, both Ames High students.
“My most joy and pride is that I can show my children and my students what the American dream is,” says Wang. “Nothing is impossible. Contributing to community and learning is the first step toward a life goal.”