Saturday, March 30, 2013

Are Conferences Enough?

I talked with a colleague the other day about her ESL program. We agreed on every issue, but when I was talking to her, I realized that there are some misconceptions about communicating with ESL parents. I am going to highlight what some of these misconceptions are, and I will make some comments on them.

Misconception #1: As long as a school district has interpreters for parent-teacher conferences, it is doing what it needs to do in order to support ESL students and parents. If a parent's first contact with the teacher or school is the conference, they usually arrive bewildered and timid. When I have had contact with them prior to the conference, it usually goes much better and we get a lot more accomplished. Their students also do much better when multiple contacts are made with the parents. Think of everything a mainstream, English-speaking, middle-class family knows about education in the United States. Now, imagine trying to cover all of that information for new arrivals to the United States. Add the time it takes to interpret the information into another language. At most, most children probably get about 60 minutes of conference time a year. It is impossible to transfer all of the information an ESL parent might need during the course of a student's educational career to them even when using a good system for communication. Therefore, limiting communication to what is expressed during conferences is not even close to enough especially when we consider that ESL students are expected to be at par with their mainstream peers in one to five years, depending on the test/state. Most teachers and administrators also expect or hope that their ESL students attend some type of post-secondary institution. Conferences are not nearly enough.

Misconception #2: A good system for communicating to ESL parents is not necessary. Finding random (reluctant) volunteers, bilingual children, or language teachers to help is a good way to communicate with ESL parents. I think you notice the sarcasm in the previous statement. A school district is not going to get the results it wants in terms of academic performance or behavior if it doesn't create a system that works for parents, teachers, and students. It is also not ethical (possibly not legal) for a school district to communicate with ESL parents in a haphazard way. I know it sounds ridiculous, but many school districts do communicate with ESL parents in this manner.

Misconception #3: If a school district puts the same amount of effort toward communication with ESL parents as it does with mainstream parents, it will get the results it wants. Here is a quote from the Intercultural Center for Research in Education (1998):

The activities that schools carry out to promote parental involvement are not addressing theneeds of all parents. For the most part, these activities are appealing to middle class parents,whose educational background, social status and financial resources strengthen their ability tohelp their children succeed in school. Hispanic parents feel alienated from schools and as aresult, they have low attendance at parent meetings, tend to withdraw from participating inparent-teacher conferences and avoid communication with teachers and school administrators. (

There is actually a lot of good in the article I quoted above. If schools want good results, they need to do more. Parents need to feel like they have a say. They need to feel valued.

I hope you like the new format. It is no longer a blogfomercial. I hope you can leave a comment. Challenge me if you feel I am incorrect.

Eric Goodman

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Building ESL Programs

Every article I find shows that our services are necessary to build a learning program that includes families who speak English as a second language. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009) states:

3) Communicate with families in a language they can understand. It is essential that families receive oral and written communication from the teacher and center staff in a language they can understand best. Translate written documents such as classroom newsletters into families' home language(s). If you use a free online translation service, be sure to have someone who speaks the language proof read the document for accuracy. (

The same article also states:

Be sure to have a system in place wherein families can provide feedback such as suggestions, comments or questions to the center. This may be a point of contact in the center who speaks the language of the families or perhaps families can provide written feedback and center staff are able to later translate it. 

Advocate Latino ( can provide these services. We cannot promise that we can solve every communication problem, but we can provide a lot of assistance. If a particular school is having difficulties with academic performance or behavior, I believe that the extra communication we provide will help. Parents will feel like they have someone who they can call, and that their voices are being heard. Their feelings will be passed on to their children, and a difference will be seen in the classroom and the school.

We will not only do this job well, but we will also do it at a great price. We realize that districts are on a tight budget. If you read some older posts, you will see that we can service 10 students at about $1,000 per year. This includes everything--check in calls; sixty minutes of two way (liaison-type calls), three way (interpreter-type calls), or FaceTime calls (interpreter-type calls with video); a 1-800 number for your parents to call; and whatever else we can do to help (translating documents and interpreting for conferences is extra, but not expensive). Any other business that does the same services is going to be much more expensive.

Go to to register today. Registration is easy. It should take about two minutes at the most. It is also free. Once you register, you are automatically signed up for the free trial. Because we are a new company, we are trying to build a customer base and a good reputation. Therefore, we are not asking for credit card information or asking for any type of commitment at this point. It is a true free trial.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Eric (cell): 715-821-0116
Ary (main number): 715-350-2277
Ary (toll free): 800-378-5354

Tengan cuidado amigos!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Communicating with non-Latino ESL Parents

I have worked with many parents who do not speak Spanish, and I have enjoyed it quite a bit. I was going to write that I feel bad sometimes because I do speak only Spanish and English, and therefore, I have a tendency to favor Spanish speakers, but I really don't. I feel as though I do treat all of my students fairly.

This post is not meant to be a blogfomercial. If you look at the links on the right, you can find resources that might help you communicate with all of your ESL students. They are all important, no matter where they come from or what language they speak. We have to find ways to communicate with every ESL family.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Free Trials for Everyone! Use FaceTime with Us!

I know that we have been advertizing free trials for school districts, but I want to mention that we will do a free trial for any organization. You just need to tell us what you need, and we will be happy to deliver it to you--for free!...but not forever :)

I wonder if Ann Logsdon (2009) was reading our minds when she wrote:

"Web-based meetings, conducted on reliable equipment with adequate Internet processing speed, can offer the interpreter and the [ESL] family more opportunities to pick up on subtle meaning and non-verbal feedback to improve communication in ways that cannot be accomplished by telephone alone." (From the article "Top 3 Ways to Accommodate Parents of English Language Learners"

When Ary and I were first creating the business, we were saying, "We need to get FaceTime." We knew that it would be a powerful tool so that Ary could act as the liaison remotely, possibly for a variety of small schools who don't have the resources to hire a full-time liaison. We are one of the few in the liaison or interpreting industry that has FaceTime. Please leave a comment below if you know of another company that offers FaceTime.

FaceTime can be used for schools, but we have also thought that it would be a great program for helping dentists, lawyers, and chiropractors. We are definitely willing to let anyone try our services for free. You just need to go to and register. We'll take care of the rest.

I know that this blog is really starting to look like a blogfomercial. It actually is and was always meant to be. I have never considered myself a writer, and I probably never will. We have a new idea for a business, and I am doing my best trying to promote it.

I would love it if somebody could make some comments about something outside of the company, possibly related to communicating with ELLs or possibly not. I would definitely do my best to try to comment on it.

Our idea, by the way, is to create a company that acts as a Latino liaison for small school districts who cannot afford to hire a part-time or full-time liaison. We believe the need for this is huge. We also believe that many school districts might hesitate because of the fear of cost. That is why we are offering the best prices possible. You can read below (my second post) to see how I broke it down. We also believe that there are dentists, lawyers, and chiropractors in small communities who also could use us as an interpreter in their offices.

Right now, there seems to be two options for schools:
1. Pay $4 per minute for a three party call.
2. Pay $15 or more per page for document translating.

When the companies that created the two options above were thinking about who their customers would be, I doubt that many of them were thinking about schools. I hope they weren't. Most schools can't afford these prices. Also, only having these two methods of communicating at your disposal is not enough for the fast-paced environment of a school. Teachers don't always have the time to make a three party call. What if the parents aren't there? Then, they have to do it again. Also, three party calls can be awkward, and they can take a long time. With us, you can send us an email and we will take care of the rest with a two party call.

For three party calls, we can do it over the phone or on FaceTime. Imagine having an (extra) interpreter at your disposal at conferences. You wouldn't need to hire anybody. You wouldn't need to use children. You wouldn't need to leave with important information unsaid.

I guess I will get into something a bit more "bloggish." You'll see the bias in it, but I will write it anyway. I don't think it is right to have children do the interpreting for adults. It puts them in a awkward situation. They might be talking about themselves, their siblings, or their cousins. It might be about someone they don't even know. The school, when putting the children in this situation, might be breaking privacy laws. Schools need to have professional liaisons or interpreters ready at all times, no matter how small they are and no matter how few Latinos/ESL students there are at the school.

Take care everyone. To make it even more bloggish, I will just leave you with my number in case you have any questions. It is 715-821-0116.

The next blog will be about students who are not Latino. It will not be a blogfomercial because we do not service non-Spanish speakers.

Thanks for reading. Make a comment.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Addition to the First Two Blogs

It looks like this blog has generated some interest around the world. I appreciate that you have taken the time to read it. I welcome any comments.

I just wanted to let you know how Advocate Latino ( suggests you send translated documents home. First, you would have us translate it. We would send the document to you, and you could print it out and disperse it to your students. Then, we would call all of the parents receiving it so that they know it is coming. There have been many times when papers have been sent home, and I have gotten little or no response. I think the students are overwhelmed with papers, and they don't realize that what you are sending home is important. Sometimes it is something that they don't want their parents to see. We would also do follow-up calls if necessary.

I like this idea better than what might be customary--maybe a letter that was translated using a machine translator like Google Translate or maybe one that was translated by a human. And then, the teacher waits, frustrated, as the letters don't come back. Or, they find out in a couple weeks that the parents had no idea a letter was sent out. Usually, teachers don't take the time to do calls as well. They don't have the time. However, I think it is a great opportunity for the school to make a connection with the parents. It's difficult to do this when the teacher does not speak the parents language. Also remember that some parents cannot read, so sending out a letter does no good. Sometimes no one in the family can read in Spanish or English.

This is why Advocate Latino ( suggests you use our services. Having us make these phone calls is now affordable. We will follow up until everyone understands. If we give this extra effort, no families should be left in the dark. Students should do better in school. Parents will feel like they are part of the process. Everyone will feel valued and important.

Contact us with any questions. Be the first to comment!

Ary: 715-350-2277
Toll Free (Ary): 800-378-5354
Eric: 715-821-0116


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Who Are Our Customers?

As I think about who our customers will eventually be, I imagine most of them will be from the Midwest--North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Kansas, Ohio, etc. We are a Wisconsin-based company, and I am from North Dakota so it makes sense that a lot of our customers would come from this area of the country. Also, there are a lot of rural schools in the Midwest that have small to large populations of Latinos, but at this point they don't have enough students to justify hiring a liaison. Some of them might need a liaison, but do not see the need themselves because they are used to putting out fires, getting reluctant volunteers and Spanish teachers to help, or just leaving the problem unresolved. I make the assumption that states like Texas and Arizona would not need our services as much because they have had large Latino populations for a long time and already have the liaison staffing that is necessary, but I could be wrong. We are obviously willing to help anyone from any state.

I was just looking at an article in Colorín Colorado (2007). It is called "How to Reach Out to Parents of ELLs" ( The first suggestion they give is to "use [the parents] preferred language." I don't know how this can be done effectively without having someone dedicated to it. They also suggest that schools find a fully bilingual interpreter, that they translate written communication that is sent home, that teachers learn Spanish, and that parents are put in touch with bilingual staff. Advocate Latino ( does not specialize in teaching Spanish, but we can definitely help school districts with the rest of the suggestions.

Many teachers and administrators will see this and immediately think that this will cost thousands of dollars to do. There is a good reason for this. Many translating and interpreting companies charge a lot of money for human and machine translating/interpreting.

However, if they use Advocate Latino, they would be surprised at how little money they spend. Let's say a school district has 10 Latino students. Our base charge is $12/student/month for the $12 per month package. That would be $120 per month. This would include one "check in" call per student per month. I like the idea of a "check in" because it will allow the school districts, the parents, and Advocate Latino to build relationships with the parents and find out about potential problems before they happen. It would also include up to 60 minutes of three party or two party calls per student. Remember that students can share minutes, so that would be a total of 600 minutes of calls for the district for the month. I don't think most districts would go over 600 minutes. That's 10 hours of phone calls for 10 students. The $12 does not cover document translations. The one page document translations are $7 once the district has become a $12 per month customer. So, let's say the district has us translate 10 documents for the year and it has 10 students. That would be $120 x 9 (months) = $1,080 + $70 for documents =  $1,150 for the school year! Some phone interpreting companies charge $4/minute. If a school district uses a company like this, $1,150 would get them 288 minutes. With Advocate Latino, it gets a school district 5,400 minutes plus "check in" calls. We will send you a report with every "check in." With us, the school district will also build a relationship with Ary and our other employees. If there is a problem, it can contact the owner (me) directly. My number is 715-821-0116.

We founded this company to help people. We saw that there is a huge need for this type of service in school districts, especially smaller ones. We want to keep it affordable so that school districts can do a better and more consistent job communicating with Latinos.

There has never been a time in our history when integrating all students as soon as possible has been this important. Start today! It is a true free trial. We are trying to build our business for next school year so we are willing to help school districts as much as we can for free this spring.

Call us today!
Phone (Ary): 715-350-2277
Cell (Eric): 715-821-0116
Toll Free (Ary): 800-378-5354

¡Tengan cuidado! 


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Welcome to Communicate with ESL Parents!

My name is Eric Goodman. I created this blog for two reasons. I want to be honest so I will share my main reason first and then my secondary reason.

The main reason I started this blog is to promote my new business, Advocate Latino. Our website can be found at I feel that we need to have a blog so that we can explain what we do. I believe we are different from any business that is somewhat similar to us. We do interpreting and translating for a Spanish-speaking audience, but our main goal is to communicate with Spanish speakers by building long-term relationships with them. In the United States, most of these Spanish speakers are Latinos, but we would definitely help someone from Spain as well. We want to communicate with our clients (English-speaking organizations) and their clients (Spanish-speaking customers, clients, and parents) is the most effective and efficient manner possible. My business partner, Ary, will be doing most of the communicating.

Most interpreting companies only offer three-party calls. We offer this, but we also offer two-party calls for those situations that do not require a three-party call. An example of this would be a reminder call for parent-teacher conferences. I cannot think of a good reason to make a three-party call to remind parents to go to conferences. If this is what you would like us to do, you could just give us a list and we could make all of the calls. By the way, I have found that participation at conferences is very low if only letters are sent home. Most of the time, parents are a little confused about conferences, and they need a phone call to reassure them. I have also found that one call is not as effective as two. My advice to teachers is to give one call about a week ahead of conferences and then another call one or two days before conferences. I have gotten the best results with this method.

The secondary reason I started this blog is to open a forum for teachers, administrators, health care professionals, and business leaders to share the methods they have used to communicate with clients, patients, and parents who have limited English proficiency. I believe that limited English speakers need to build strong relationships with organizations, and they need to be constantly engaged with the organization so that it works for them.

My experience comes from the public school system. I have found that better relationships with parents yield better performance from students in terms of academic achievement and behavior. If the goal is to put out fires, school districts will continually put out fires. It is no way for teachers and students to be productive.

Please post whatever you wish.

Remember that we have FaceTime! It is like having an interpreter in the room. Our prices are better than any other company in the field of translating and interpreting. We are also the first or one of the first to have FaceTime. Go to to see our prices.

If you are still not sure what we are, here is the best explanation I can give you: We are a cultural liaison/interpreter/translator for schools and other organizations that don't have the number of Latinos they need to justify hiring a part-time or full-time employee to do this type of work. Call us today to get started.

Eric: 715-821-0116
Ary: 715-350-2277
Toll Free (Ary): 800-378-5354

Take care,