Louise Rocha-McCarthy is an interpreter for the Portland (Maine) public
schools and area agencies. She translates legal documents for attorneys and
has worked as an interpreter for the courts, hospitals and social service
agencies in Portland.
Earlier this year, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2281 into law, making it an offense to teach courses at any grade level that promote resentment towards a race or class of people. The law further states that no classes may be designed for any ethnic group or promote ethnic solidarity. This despite the fact that, according to the U.S. Census, 30 percent of the state is made up of Latinos.
When I entered the classroom to interpret for the middle school parent and teacher conference, the student shouted that I wasn’t necessary. The teacher had called for my services because for two semesters she had been telling the mother that her son was flunking. And for two semesters, the mother had grinned ecstatically and said, “Thank you”—her only English words. The son had “interpreted” to his mother that he was on the honor roll.
A few years ago, I was called to translate by a social worker at a primary school. A teacher had complained that one of her students never looked her in the eye when spoken to and was painfully shy. The child never participated in class unless it was obligatory and only under duress. She was frequently absent, particularly on days when she had to make a presentation before the class. However, the student was very bright, with excellent grades and careful, neat work. The social worker wanted me to contact the parents and arrange a meeting to discuss a special education placement.