Interactions between people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds enrich our lives and our society but also create unique challenges for early childhood practitioners in Australia. Practitioners in the early childhood education and care sector can value diversity of languages, cultures, religions and ethnicities by promoting participation of all families within their services. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that "all children have the right to an education that lays the foundation for the rest of their lives, maximises their abilities and respects their family, culture, identity and languages".
Communication and participation plays a vital role in providing a sense of belonging for children, families and practitioners in the early childhood education and care sector. This is communicated through two guiding documents in Australia:
1) The National Quality Framework (NQF) and 2) The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).
So, what is the best way for educators to respond to children and families when the main language spoken by that family is not the dominant language? All available evidence would indicate that engaging accredited interpreters to facilitate effective communication with people from diverse linguistic backgrounds is part of an organisation's commitment to ensuring equitable access to their service.
Please note: In this training course the term 'accredited' interpreter is used to provide consistency with the NQF and EYLF documents. The word 'credentialed' interpreter could also be used interchangeably.
Cultural and linguistic diversity in Queensland
Information about the families in your local community is available in ABS census data and can be useful for service planning and awareness raising to attract families to the benefits of early childhood education and care offered by your service. The data on Queensland according to the 2011 census is:
- 1:5 Queenslanders are born overseas.
- 203,000 persons are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
- Queenslanders speak more than 220 languages
- One in 10 speaks a language other than English.
- In 2013-2014, Queensland received 10,610 permanent settlers from countries where English is a second language.
- From 2011 to June 2014, almost 7000 new humanitarian entrants have settled in the state.
Interpreting is the act of conveying information from one language into another.
Interpreting happens when at least two people who do not share a common language are involved in a conversation with the intervention of a third person, who is the interpreter. The interpreter orally translates information from one language to another.
Two people speaking in the same language does not constitute interpreting. Interpreting can be done through telephone or face to face.
Telephone interpreters are NAATI accredited interpreters who have registered with interpreting organisations and provide telephone interpreting services. Immediate over the phone interpreting is available for early childhood education and care services to communicate with families who speak languages other than English. A pre-booked telephone interpreting service is also available for early childhood education and care services to assist with communicating with families who speak languages other than English.
On-site face to face interpreting is also available for early childhood education and care services. On-site interpreters offer more assistance with longer, more detailed or complex conversations. They are best used where there is time to book ahead. Bookings need to be made at least one week in advance to arrange on-site interpreting services.
Early childhood services can engage accredited interpreters when:
- conveying important or sensitive information about children's health issues
- seeking informed consent from families
- family member identifies that language is a barrier to communicating effectively
- advising parents on enrolment
- conducting parent-teacher interviews
- advising parents on early childhood programs and activities
- discussing educational assessment with parents
- advising parents on kindergarten to school transition
Translators are qualified professionals who make a written transfer of a message or documents from one language to another language.
In Australia a person should hold minimum credentials with NAATI. Early childhood services can work with translators:
- If they require important documents such as birth certificates, immunisation records in English.
- If a parent requests for the family handbook or enrolment form in their language
- Cultural Support Workers
Cultural Support Workers
Cultural Support Workers provide cultural advice and language support to facilitate culturally competent service delivery to multicultural communities. There is no qualification or accreditation associated with bi-cultural support work.
A Cultural Support Worker in early childhood services can assist practitioners to:
- settle a child into the care environment by sharing knowledge, language, experiences and modelling culturally service practices
- convey general information regarding routine needs or day to day issues of early childhood services
To read a story from the perspective of a Cultural Support Worker, read Bao's story on page 13 of Culture in practice: stories to inspire (MDA)
- Identifying the correct language
Identifying the correct language
Language services provided by accredited interpreters and translators and cultural and language support provided by Cultural Support Workers in early childhood services are all important in early childhood services to embrace diversity and promote participation of families in early childhood services. However it is important to know the exact language in which a service or support is required.
The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) lists some of the main interpreting languages that are in demand.
If early childhood practitioners engage family and friends instead of accredited interpreters to save time and money, they may face various risks. Their service may be legally liable if incorrect interpretation results in injury or insult and costly legal action could ensue.
- Building confidence in engaging and working with interpreters in early childhood services
Building confidence in engaging and working with interpreters in early childhood services
There are times when you will need to engage a NAATI accredited interpreter to support you as you interact with families from non-English speaking backgrounds.
For example if you:
- Need to communicate in depth with a parent from a non-English speaking background but you are currently prevented from doing so by language barriers. OR
- Have a new parent who has tried to enrol a child in your service without being able to communicate with you effectively due to limited English. OR
- Work in a remote area with no local access to interpreters and you have a parent who wants to know more about the services you provide.
In cases where you have assessed that interpreter is needed, it is also advised to let the parent know that:
- Requests for an interpreter who is of the same ethnic and religious background can be made
- They may be able to request an interpreter who is not known to them if confidentiality is perceived as an issue
- An interpreter is always bound by AUSIT’s code of ethics for confidentiality and privacy
- A preference for a male or female interpreter can be accommodated if available in their particular language
- Credentials/qualifications of the interpreter can be checked
- Interpreter services may be requested on site or over the phone
Practitioners need to access a client code, book an interpreter and then follow the steps to engage and work with interpreters in early childhood services.
- Final activity
This activity will assist your understanding of how to work with interpreters in early childhood services. It asks you to practice accessing and booking an interpreter in real life. The steps you will work through are:
- Preparations before the interview
- Conducting the interview
- Reflection after the interview
Once you have completed this final activity, you can click on the check box to indicate that you have worked through all the steps.
- References and resources
References and resources
References used in this module
Once you have viewed all of the materials in this course and completed the activities, you will be able to download your certificate of completion here. Please note this course is not accredited.