My translation work has varied across a number of fields, which include: science, environment, web, oil and gas, court documents, contracts, company disputes, educational degrees. I have also done interpreting at courts, notary public offices, arbitration centres and conferences during the past few years.
My daughter, Golbarg and I were waiting in the reception area where Sara, the school psychological assistant reached us and asked if we needed an interpreter. ‘No, thanks. I am an interpreter myself’, I replied. ‘Great’, she smiled affably and led us towards various sections of the school and finally to the school library where we sat for a short chat and briefing.
‘Well, any questions so far?’ Sara inquired. I looked at my daughter smiling which she well interpreted as ‘you start first, darling’. I was almost certain that my daughter would readily ask about the school morning and afternoon clubs, outings or child-to-teacher ratio.
‘Do you provide linguistic and cultural support for foreign students at your school?’ Golbarg said unhesitatingly to my utter astonishment.
How could my maternal instinct go so wrong as to misread my daughter’s concerns as a newly-arrived Persian student in Westminster!
The desperate need had been diagnosed and my next step was to focus on ways to provide unofficial linguistic and cultural hints to help relax new students’ distress. I started by reading every single newsletter and attending as many coffee mornings as I could. A few times I communicated small typos, incorrect dates or confusing cultural information with the head teacher who was a decisive manager to improve the school and of course open to my tips.
Two months later, I received an invitation letter and a form for the school parent governor election. The school staff strongly encouraged me to fill out the form and put myself forward for the role. I had already built a close relationship with many parents and families from various backgrounds.
I was elected as the school parent governor. Chris, the chair of the school governing body arranged a private meeting and asked about my background and job. I told him that I was a linguist, translator and interpreter and provided a copy of my CIOL membership certificate. There was no more hesitation or thinking. ‘Being of service is a mindset’, Chris said instantaneously. ‘I gather that you have the ability to work in a team, ask questions, listen and learn which we would very much welcome here. We want you not only as a governor, but also a critical friend, a linguistic and cultural support’, he emphasised.
Understandably the governing body was overwhelmed with expectations to meet educational standards, values, disciplines, policies and instructions. Based on my own initiative, I arranged a multilingual team of ‘student-interpreter volunteers’. When a new student joined the school, a volunteer of the same origin was assigned to support him/her linguistically and culturally until I could make sure the newcomer was able to handle school all alone. Interestingly, in a little while parents seemed as much enthusiastic, ready to support newly arrived families. The team was indeed an asset, a possible solution to language-related problems of the school.