South Portland Public Schools in Maine is a district in which roughly 20% of students are English language learners. Nearly 35% of the district’s parents do not speak English as a primary language. 

To bridge the language gap and ensure all families have equal access to information and resources, the district implemented LanguageLine DirectResponse, an innovative solution that schools across North America are using to streamline communication between non-English speaking families and school staff.

The First Voice They Hear

Imagine calling your child's school and not being unable to understand the automated message or communicate effectively with the staff. This was the reality for many South Portland families before DirectResponse. Traditional methods often involved lengthy wait times and frustration for both families and staff.

Enter DirectResponse, a user-friendly system that eliminates the language barrier for non-English speaking parents. When calling the school, the first voice they hear is a live, professional interpreter in their preferred language. The interpreter remains on the line throughout the call, facilitating clear and efficient communication between the family and school personnel.

The service is available in 45 languages.

READ MORE: Diverse Virginia School System Uses DirectResponse to Greet Non-English Callers

"Now, it's much more accessible for families because they can call their regular school office phone number, choose the language they prefer, and be connected with an interpreter to have a conversation with the front office staff," Director of Multilingual Programs April Perkins said

According to Perkins, DirectResponse facilitates seamless communication between families and school staff, making it easier for parents to address various concerns, such as reporting a child's absence or arranging for an early departure—all conducted in their preferred language.

"It just makes it a much more comfortable experience for the families rather than cold calling the office, knowing I need an interpreter; it just eliminates the awkwardness and the barrier," Perkins said. 

The Impact: A More Inclusive School Community

The impact of this initiative is tangible, as illustrated by students like Richard Vangu, a senior at South Portland High School who moved to Maine in 2022 from Brazil. When he first arrived, he didn't know any English. 

"You know you can't hear or understand anything, but then my ears opened, it was a miracle, and you can hear everything," Vangu said. 

READ MORE: How a Children’s Hospital Used DirectResponse to Improve Patient Experience

Now, he's an English-speaking student—his fifth known language. His parents, who don't speak English, can easily communicate with the school. 

"It's a good tool for them. It makes it easier for them to be in touch and know what is going on with us," Vangu said. 

 As it has in other districts, DirectResponse has had a significant positive impact on the South Portland school community, including:

  • Empowered families: With clear communication, families can actively participate in their child's education, attend meetings, and address any concerns or questions.
  • Reduced frustration: The system eliminates confusion and frustration often associated with language barriers, improving the overall experience for families.
  • Increased efficiency: DirectResponse saves time for both families and staff by streamlining call routing and interpretation services.
  • Inclusive environment: By ensuring clear communication for all, DirectResponse fosters a more inclusive and welcoming school environment for families of diverse linguistic backgrounds.

A Model for Other Schools

South Portland's success story serves as a model for other schools across the country grappling with similar challenges. By partnering with LanguageLine, your district can:

  • Streamline communication for your multilingual community.
  • Connect with qualified interpreters in over 45 languages, 24/7.
  • Leverage our expertise to develop a customized language solution for your unique needs.

Let's work together to ensure clear communication and empower individuals of all languages to thrive. We invite you to learn more about LanguageLine DirectResponse and to contact us for a free consultation. 

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