Central Washington University, Collaboration, College of Arts and Humanities, Giving Back to Our Communities, Uncategorized, World languages, World Languages Department

Giving Back to Our Communities Through English/Spanish Translation and Interpretation

By Stacey Robertson

One question we repeatedly ask at CWU’s College of Arts and Humanities: How can we make good on our commitment to give back to Ellensburg and the surrounding communities in Kittitas and Yakima Counties?

Our eight dynamic departments and four interdisciplinary programs offer a wide range of talents and services, assisting in our mission to make our hometown a better place to live as a result of our interest and direct participation.

For example, translation-and-interpretation services are related and yet remarkably different skills. We are providing both of these vital services to assist the Hispanic parents and their children at two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high-school right here in Ellensburg.

This collaboration between our Department of World Languages and Cultures and Lincoln Elementary School, Mt. Stuart Elementary School, Morgan Middle School, and Ellensburg High School is a classic win-win proposition for both our Spanish students and Hispanic families in our community.

The reason: Students taking Professor Nathalie Kasselis’ Translation and Interpretation class (Spanish 442) directly benefit from having the opportunity to practice their growing language skills at our local schools. In turn, Spanish-speaking immigrant parents and their children at four separate schools are grateful for translation of important English documents and interpretation at parent/teacher conferences.


Professor Kasselis (right) meets with Ellensburg School District interpreter Diana Wilson and a local family at a parent-teacher conference at Mt. Stuart Elementary School.

Dr. Laila Abdalla, CAH Department of World Languages and Cultures Chair, said the translation/interpretation project began November, 2015 at Mt. Stuart Elementary School. The program has now expanded to three other schools. Abdalla noted that Spanish 442 students are devoting their time to serve these schools, far in excess of actual course requirements.

“Many of these parents have hard lives,” said Professor Kasselis. “They want their children to succeed, and we want to help them achieve this goal by bridging the linguistic gap between them and their teachers. By interpreting at school conferences, we are offering parents the opportunity to become fully invested in their children’s education. We are also giving the children an additional chance to be successful in the classroom.”

During parent/teacher conferences, Spanish 442 students translate written school documents for Hispanic parents and interpret the conversations between parents and teachers simultaneously.

Kasselis reminded us that translation and interpretation – whatever the language – are difficult skills to master because not only do they require a solid grammatical and lexical knowledge of two languages, but also a deep understanding of the cultures embedded in these languages. Translators and interpreters are true linguistic and cultural mediators, whose skills are in high demand in our local community and literally around the world.


World Language students, Angelica Barrera and Cristina Ortega-Solis, interpreting at Mt Stuart Elementary School

We are fortunate to have Dr. Kasselis as part of our faculty for two decades. She is trilingual, fluent in her native French, Spanish, and English. She was born in Pau in the shadow of the Pyrenees, which separates France and Spain. She received her bachelor’s degree in Translation from the University of Pau, another bachelor’s in Spanish from Shippensburg University (Pennsylvania), a master’s degree in Spanish from Marquette University, and a Ph.D. in Spanish Medieval Literature from Michigan State University. Dr. Kasselis teaches both Spanish and French for our Department of World Languages and Cultures.

In our last LaunchPad post, we assessed the collaboration between our Department of Art and Department of Communication with the former providing a talented student creative director and graphic designers to work with the journalists from the latter, producing our award-winning Pulse magazine.

This time, we are focusing on how we can team with the local community, providing our distinct student-and-faculty talents to benefit both our own students by improving their skillsets and parents and students in succeeding in life.

Trust me, when I say there will be more of these stories posted on LaunchPad in the coming months and years. After all, giving back to our communities is an integral part of our mission.

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