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School Outreach Profiles


Edna Lucia Santizo

Career Day at Wadsworth Elementary

I’ve been a freelance translator and interpreter for over seven years, working mostly in the greater Los Angeles, California area. I work with a lot of non-profit organizations, and a staff member from one of the organizations I’ve worked with asked me to present on Career Day at her former elementary school.

At first, I was hesitant to present to a group of students about my beloved profession because I had never done it before... but there’s a first time for everything, right? The person who invited me was very supportive and offered very good ideas about how to present to elementary-age students. I also consulted and used a lot of ideas and resources from the ATA School Outreach Program website.

After a brief introduction to the school, I was assigned to several kindergarten classrooms. I decided not to use any presentation materials or handouts, and instead just focused on a real-life, hands-on experience. The school is located in a predominantly Latino community, so most of the students were bilingual in English and Spanish.

My presentation started by asking simple questions about language, if they spoke more than one language and what language they spoke at home. Then, I introduced interpreting equipment—receivers, earpieces, microphone and transmitter—and explained why I need the equipment. The curiosity factor intensified as the receivers were turned on; nobody had seen such a device before.

I asked the teachers to choose a short story from a book and read it aloud. As their teachers started to read the story in English, I was simultaneously interpreting into Spanish. Eyes lit, mouths were open, some kids didn’t know where to look—their teacher was reading in English, but they were listening in Spanish. Some got closer to me to see if I was also reading from a book.

After we finished with the story, I explained how the equipment is a tool used to help interpreters communicate in two languages. I continued by explaining in what settings I work, who might need an interpreter and other places where they might find interpreters—hospitals, courts, clinics, schools, the United Nations, when presidents from two different countries meet, etc.

I opened for discussion, and most of the questions had to do with where I had studied to become an interpreter, how long my studies took and if I knew any other languages. I was also asked if I like what I do and why, which led to a very interesting exchange. I told them that interpreters are like bridges that connect people with the information and services they need. Interpreters help overcome language barriers, so that we can communicate.

I ended with a reminder that being bilingual and having a strong knowledge of a second language is important and can help them with their professional aspirations.

I enjoyed the experience, but mostly enjoyed their curiosity and expressions of surprise when the little kindergarten kids experienced interpreting first hand. They expressed their understanding that having a second language is useful and cool.