Swarthmore is offering a live, simultaneous translation of Sunday’s commencement, where guests will be able to listen to a Spanish version of the ceremony using wireless headsets.
Many universities, including Swarthmore, have long offered sign-language interpreters or closed captioning at their graduations for the deaf and hard of hearing. But translation into foreign languages appears to be uncommon.
Some Hispanic advocacy groups expressed surprise when told of Swarthmore’s endeavor, calling it an unusual and welcome development for the nation’s growing Latino population.
I suspect that the number of Swarthmore College graduates with relatives who speak no English at all is rather limited. Only 11 percent of Swarthmore’s student body even identifies as Latino; that’s like 38 students graduating this year.
Still, according to Deborah Santiago of Excelencia in Education, the Spanish translation may not be about actually assisting people who can’t understand English so much as “Investing now in creating a campus culture that’s inviting and supporting of Latinos.” As she explained in the article, “I think that it’s really going to pay off for them down the road.”