First period on Monday, I was called down to the office during my prep. I cursed a little under my breath because I still feel fear whenever I’m called to the office. As it turns out, I was being called down to meet a new student and her father.

The father speaks little English and his daughter speaks almost none. They speak Dari, a language similar to Farsi. My principal had called a student down to the office from another class, thinking she spoke Dari. When we found out that she didn’t, I suggested a student from my class. Turns out that knowing a little bit about your students can come in handy.

M– came down to the office with a little fear in her eyes because she had been called out of class to come down to the office. When she found out that we wanted her to do some translating for us, she perked right up and was shyly excited to be able to help.

We five – M–, me, the principal, S–, and S–’s father – sat in the principal’s office and talked about what S– could expect on her first day of school. After a few minutes, M– took S– on a tour of the school and I took S–’s father to our classroom to meet the ESL teacher. After a few minutes, I had to go to my next class.

As the day progressed, I’d catch glimpses of S– walking through the hallways with M–. Understandably, S– was shy, timid, and perceptibly overwhelmed. Still, she remained engaged and tried her best to keep up with all that was happening around her.

In the afternoon, S– joined me for her core classes. Unable to understand me, my mumbling and rumbling speak, she sat quietly while M– translated what she could. When I finally got my students working on their own, I took some time to sit down with S–.

Even though I look like I should, I don’t speak Farsi or Dari. Speaking to S– quickly became difficult. Then, Google came to my rescue. I pulled out my iPad and opened up Google Translate.

Without saying a word, I was communicating with S–. She was comfortable using an iPad, even adding the Persian keyboard through my settings, and immediately began communicating with me. We were able to go back and forth in a conversation, understanding each other better than most of my students listen.

The ESL teacher came by to visit and check in on S– and he, too, quickly started communicating with her using Google Translate.

Google Translate bridged a gap as quickly as it takes to send a text. While sitting across the table from S–, I could read her body language, making the conversation feel more authentic. Small gestures and giggles aided the formation of a relationship, while Google Translate helped us speak to each other in our own disparate languages.

Now, when she walks into class, I pull out my iPad and put it down in front of S–. This afternoon, I saw a crowd of students huddled around her, passing around the iPad so they could talk to her. Even though, ironically, they were loud, I was glad to see that the students in the class were starting to reach out to her and express their curiosity.

Google Translate helped me and my students welcome S– warmly.

You can download Google Translate from the App Store here.

Google Translate
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