Microsoft Translator opens doors for Onslow County Schools students, teachers, and parents

Microsoft Translator opens communication wherever language barriers exist.

Onslow County, nestled on the coast of North Carolina, is the home of Camp Lejeune Marine Base and New River Air Station. With nearly 50 percent of its student population being federally connected, Onslow County has a diverse population, with people from all over the world calling it home, even if only temporarily. With this diverse population comes students who are English language learners, and this is where Microsoft Translator comes into play.

Thompson Early Childhood Center (TECC) conducts a meeting each year for parents of students transitioning from Pre-K to kindergarten. This meeting provides a plethora of resources and information for these parents. Many of the Pre-K parents at Onslow County Schools speak Spanish. Without a translator, this meeting is difficult, at best, for these parents. In years past, a Spanish to English translator was provided for the meeting and, though beneficial, presenters and parents alike found it distracting to have two languages spoken simultaneously.

This year, TECC’s Digital Learning and Teaching Facilitator introduced Microsoft Translator. During this year’s annual transition meeting, Spanish-speaking parents met in a separate room, where a 65-inch television – connected to a laptop – waited. The screen of this television was split with a muted Skype session with presenters in the meeting on one side, and Microsoft Translator with a running translation of the presenters on the other. Parents were able to see the presenters and their presentations, and could read the running Spanish translation of the presenters.

Our Spanish speaking parents were absolutely thrilled. Not only did they completely understand all the resources and information being provided, they also discovered a very powerful resource in Microsoft Translator. Many parents of our English language learners find it difficult to communicate effectively with the school, their child’s teacher, and the school community. Microsoft Translator opened a whole new world to our parents, who now realize that communicating with their child’s teachers is as simple as clicking on http://www.translate.it. They are excited and look forward to using this powerful tool in the future.

Not only has Microsoft Translator opened a whole new world and broken down barriers for our parents, it has done the same for many of our students. One example of this is a student at Jacksonville High School, who we will call “Jose.” Jose moved into Onslow County Schools and enrolled in Jacksonville High School (JHS) as an English language learner, who spoke and understood very little English. Jose was enrolled in a physical science class where he quickly began to struggle due to the language barrier.

The Digital Learning and Teaching Facilitator at JHS introduced Jose’s physical science teacher to Microsoft Translator. The teacher was provided a headset with microphone for her laptop. During class, the teacher started a conversation in Microsoft Translator at http://www.translate.it and Jose would join the conversation. With the teacher using Microsoft Translator during class, Jose, equipped with headphones, joined in the conversation, listened to her instruction as it was translated into Spanish.

With the translation, Jose could begin to grasp the concepts being taught in the physical science class. As communication improved, Jose began to progress steadily in class. At the end of the semester, his teacher was nearly brought to tears as Jose completed and passed his final exam. This would not have been possible without Microsoft Translator.

Microsoft Translator is indeed a game changer, not only for students but for parents as well. With Microsoft Translator, school is now a less intimidating place for English language learners and parents. Microsoft Translator has proven to be a powerful resource for parents, students, teachers, and the community. It is free and supported on both iOS and Android, so many parents can easily download to a smart phone.

The time it takes for a teacher, presenter, or school administrator to set up Microsoft Translator is minimal. To start a conversation, simply go to http://www.translate.it , log in, type in your name, choose a language, and receive a code. The other person, such as an English language learner, goes to www.translate.it, types in the code, their name, and chooses a language they need for translation. It is just that easy and it takes less than a minute to get the conversation started. You can choose to have a written translation, spoken translation, or both.

As Digital Learning and Teaching Facilitators in Onslow County Schools, we are excited about Microsoft Translator and cannot wait to see all the possibilities that lie ahead with this powerful, yet easy to use, tool.

To learn more about Microsoft Education and our tools and technology that help foster inclusion and support personalizing learning for every student, click here.