School translators sought to help Hispanic parents Some don't speak English HARFORD COUNTY

February 28, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

The teacher speaks English, but no Spanish, the parent, Spanish but no English. So talk of a child's progress in the classroom is nonexistent.

More and more, such language barriers lead to a breakdown in communication between parents and their children's teachers in Harford County schools.

"Imagine how despairing it must be to try to talk to your child's teacher and not be able to make yourself understood," said Anne D. Sterling, school board president, at a Monday night meeting for Aberdeen school parents.

Now, Mrs. Sterling is calling on the school system to organize a core of volunteers fluent in both English and Spanish to help overcome the language barrier.

"Best of all, this is a low-cost solution," she said.

"Maybe we need an answering machine that answers in Spanish and invites them to leave a message -- in Spanish. The school system could then call that parent back in Spanish."

Harford has about 2,000 Hispanic families, and many include at least one parent who does not understand English, Mrs. Sterling said.

As of September, about 500 Hispanic children were enrolled in county schools.

A Churchville man who heads a group representing Hispanics throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area welcomed Mrs. Sterling's proposal.

"Access to education is the biggest concern for Hispanic families," said Manuel E. Alban, president of the Federation of Hispanic Organizations and chairman of the First Hispanic/Latin American Congress.

He said more than translators, the Hispanic community needs to be part of the school system when decisions are made.

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