A survey of Korean elementary schoolteachers on their communication with students and parents from migrant backgrounds and the need for quality language services

Jieun Lee


This paper investigates communication problems facing teachers when they interact with students and parents from migrant backgrounds, and explores the need for quality language services in educational settings. According to a questionnaire-based survey of 142 elementary schoolteachers, about 20–25 per cent of respondents frequently experienced difficulties in communicating with students and parents who lacked Korean language proficiency. However, the teachers usually managed without outside assistance largely because of the lack of language support services. Effective communication is needed through the delivery of more language services to support children’s learning, school education and parents’ meaningful participation in both. Most teachers surveyed supported more effective language services in their schools, but were not very vocal in advocating for professional interpreting services. Instead, they tended to emphasise other forms of language and cultural training for multicultural students and their parents. This response may derive from their lack of experience with professional interpreting services, and a lack of awareness of the limited resources available for quality service provision or the influence of assimilation policies. The findings also indicate that teachers do not consider the interpreting and translation skills of language service providers as highly as cross-cultural mediation skills, understanding of the education system or interest in individual students’ needs. The results call for further research into what would constitute best practice in educational interpreting to effectively mediate cultural differences between schools and multicultural families, and address the needs and concerns of teachers, students and parents from multicultural backgrounds.


multicultural students; migrant parents; elementary schoolteachers; language services; educational interpreting; cross-cultural mediation

Full Text: