state of Virginia

I had a call from a speech-language pathologist in a school district in Virginia that has students who speak many different languages.  They use interpreters in their evaluations with these students and the SLP had some questions about HOW to utilize the services of the interpreters.

The first question this SLP asked was,

“How much can we lean on the interpreters to help us make diagnostic decisions?”

My answer:  The interpreter does not make any diagnostic decisions.  The interpreter interprets throughout the testing session and debriefs with the SLP after the testing session .

I always ask my interpreters to transcribe the student’s language sample.  I then sit down and go through it with the interpreter and talk about each error.

I walk in with information about the structure of the student’s native language and the structure of English (the Difference or Disorder book).  This helps me make decisions about whether the errors are problematic or not.  The interpreter just identifies and describes the errors to me.

What does this look like?

Step 1:  Interpreter, please transcribe the child’s recorded language sample.  (I do the English transcript and ask any questions I have if the child uses their native language or something I do not recognize) (Meanwhile, the interpreter transcribes the native language sample.)

Here is a Spanish transcript.

language sample transcript in Spanish

Now, if I don’t speak Spanish it doesn’t help me to look at it alone.  I need to sit look at it with my interpreter

Step 2:  Interpreter, I’d like you to circle all of the errors you see in the student’s language sample.  (I do the same for the English and can review the English errors to see if they appear to be influenced by the native language).

Language sample with errors circled

Step 3:  Together, with the interpreter, we talk about each error.

Difference or Disorder
  • Errors of article-noun agreement (el rana/la rana, una hoyo/un hoyo)
  • Missing prepositions (no está un zapato/no está en el zapato, no está un hoyo/no está en un hoyo).
  • Verb errors (hació, haciendo atacando)
  • Vocabulary struggles (no sé (I don’t know), como se llama (what is it called))
  • Run-on sentences (He was talking and his dog fell and the jar broke)
  • Incoherent sentences (…el niño estaba buscando un hoyo de una de una hoyo

Step 4:  Make decisions about whether the errors could result from an influence from English if the student has had a fair amount of English exposure.  (This job is all ours, SLPs—not the interpreter’s).  This book will help you!

Step 5:  Identify problem errors and implement dynamic assessment to rule out lack of exposure or unfamiliarity/uncertainty with the task.  It is a huge topic but you can learn more here:

Click the image for a course in Working with Interpreters

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