Spanish-speaking students at Meridian Technology Center have the opportunity to gain more than career training. With the addition of the school’s Spanish translation services, students can also learn to navigate the English language.
“We don’t believe that a language barrier should keep someone from gaining a skill,” said Jeanie Zagar, Director of the Career Planning Center at Meridian. “We are here to serve all of the residents of the Meridian district. Providing Spanish translation services helps us reach our goal of providing customized education and training to individuals, industries and communities.”
Two years ago Meridian recognized the need to have a Spanish translator for a student. The school sought the services of Martha Walter, a fluent Spanish speaker. Walter began working with that individual, helping him achieve his educational goals, while learning English. Walter now assists eight full-time students in pursing their goals through translation.
“I’ve had students that know one or two English words and on the other end of the spectrum students who need minimal assistance with the translation of some of the technical terms in their program,” she said, describing the varying fluency of students she assists. “The needs truly vary from student to student.”
When Walter first meets with a student she administers a language assessment to determine the level of services that they will need. Based on each student’s needs, she tailors a learning plan for that student.
“Sometimes a student needs me to sit in class with them to translate their instructor’s lecture. Sometimes they need me to help them translate their homework. Other times they might need me to read a test to them in Spanish,” she explained.
Walter works closely with program instructors to ensure that students have the support they need to succeed in their career training program.
“Together we work hard to make a difference in students’ lives,” she said. “Many of my students are the first person in their family to participate in advanced education classes. For many students, by the time they finish their program they need minimal help from me with translation. It’s very rewarding to know that Meridian is helping them gain a job skill and learn English along the way.”
Because her students come from a variety of program areas, Walter said she has had to learn a little bit about several career fields.
“I’ve worked with students in Cosmetology, Electrical Technology, Health Careers, Culinary Arts and Automotive Technology. When it comes to each area’s technical terms, there have been plenty of times that the student and I are researching words and literally learning together. Last semester for instance I translated five Electrical Technology books for a student. After doing that, I feel pretty confident that I might be able to wire a ceiling fan,” she joked.
According to one of her students, Walter provides much more than language skills.
“She’s given me so much confidence,” said Coral Garcia, a student in the Cosmetology program. “Sometimes just knowing that Martha is there takes away some of the nerves that I feel taking a test. That makes such a big difference to me.”
In addition to the Spanish translation services that Meridian Technology Center offers its students, district residents can also take free English as a second language courses. The school also offers an evening conversational Spanish class through its short-term programs.
“Our goal is to develop a trained workforce for the district,” Zagar said. “Whether that’s a full-time career training program or helping someone learn another language, we’re assisting individuals in gaining the skills they need to be successful.”