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    Translation and Interpretation Guidelines

    In October 2017 Seattle School Board approved Policy No. 4218 Speakers of Diverse Languages. It is the policy of the Seattle School Board to promote and encourage the participation of all parents/guardians of District-enrolled students in the of their child. The Board honors and values the participation of parents/guardians who are speakers of diverse languages, and is committed to improving meaningful communication and access to District programs, services and activities for such parents/guardians empowered by language access at no cost to parents/guardians, students, or families. The intent of this policy is to establish, implement, and maintain a language access plan in service of the District’s current population of parents/guardians who are speakers of diverse languages.


    • Ensure the rights of parents/guardians to access information about the education of their child in a language that they can understand.
    • Provide accurate and timely translations.
    • Provide qualified and trained interpreters in the top nine languages.
    • Maintain a central site for translation and interpretation resources for all schools, families and staff.

    Interpretation is the process by which the spoken word is used to transfer meaning between languages. Interpretation is much more difficult than it might appear to monolingual speakers. Interpreters must have excellent memory, processing, and auditory skills and be able to accurately convey meaning at a rapid pace. Many words or concepts simply cannot be re-said literally in other languages because they might not exist.

    Translation is the process of transferring ideas expressed in writing from one language to another. Translators must have a superior understanding of the grammatical and idiomatic nuances of two languages. In many cases, a larger number of words need to be used to write in foreign languages than in English, to convey the same meaning.

    Interpretation and translation services are available in the following languages. These are the main language groups identified by the District according to the bilingual student population: Spanish, Somali, Chinese, Vietnamese, Amharic, Tagalog, Oromo, Tigrigna and Arabic.

    The English Language Learners Department will coordinate translation services intended for District-wide distribution and for interpretation and translation services for program-related communications to ELL students and families.

    When is translation and interpretation required?

    Federal regulations require all critical communication with families be conducted in both English and the home language. For those languages in which we do not have translations, we are to make a sincere effort to provide oral communication in the home language.

    • The Communication Department is responsible for translation services intended for District-wide distribution.
    • The ELL Department is responsible for interpretation and translation services provided for program-related communications to ELL students and families.
    • The Special Education department is responsible for interpretation services at IEP meetings.

    The Department of English Language Learners (ELL) & International Programs provides translation and interpretation to all families in Seattle Public Schools in our top nine languages: Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Oromo, Spanish, Somali, Tagalog, Tigrigna and Vietnamese.

    Other languages are available by request with the Bilingual Family Coordinator.
    Please email:

    ASL interpretation is available with the 504 Coordinator.
    Please email:

    Telephonic Interpretation