welcoming newcomers

How to Use a School Interpreter to Welcome a Student

Each school year, US teachers welcome newcomer students from all over the world. In today’s diverse educational landscape, classrooms are often filled with students from various cultural backgrounds, many of whom are English language learners.

welcoming newcomers

The transition to a new school can be exciting and challenging for these newcomers. As educators and fellow students, it’s our responsibility to create a warm and welcoming environment where they feel comfortable and valued from day one.

On the initial day of school, extending a welcome in the student’s native language can significantly enhance their experience. When we use an interpreter to welcome a student, we help to bridge the gap caused by language barriers. An interpreter allows us to communicate essential information about our school environment, policies, and routines more effectively. Moreover, it demonstrates our commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all students, regardless of their linguistic background.

Why Use Native Languages

There are four key reasons why making new non-English speaking students feel welcome on the first day of school is so important. The first day of school is our first chance to connect with students. Implementing a few important steps to make students feel inclusive, boost confidence, reduce anxiety, and enhance learning.

Fosters Inclusivity

Welcoming newcomers promotes a sense of belonging and inclusivity within the school community. Students who feel accepted are more likely to engage in their new school. These students tend to build positive relationships with other students. When students feel they belong, they enjoy learning and making new friends. We get more out of making students feel welcomed than not.

Boosts Student Confidence

Non-English speaking students may initially lack confidence in their language skills. By creating a supportive atmosphere, you can help them overcome this barrier. By boosting their confidence, we help students develop the self-assurance they need to excel academically.

Confidence can also increase a student’s self-efficacy in education. Self-efficacy plays a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s approach to learning and, consequently, their overall success in education. This psychological concept, introduced by Albert Bandura, refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to accomplish specific tasks and achieve desired goals.

Reduces Anxiety

Moving to a new country and school can be overwhelming. Creating a welcoming environment eases the anxiety and stress many non-English speaking students may experience during their transition. When we reduce anxiety, we make them feel more confident.

As you know, anxiety is a stressor that can easily hinder learning. We can reduce such anxiety by using an interpreter to introduce a new school environment.

Enhances Learning

Students’ ability to learn and absorb new information improves when they feel safe and comfortable. They are more likely to participate in class, ask questions, and seek help when needed.

newcomer shadow checklist

What to do on the first day of school

For newcomers, the first day of school feels overwhelming. There are various steps a school and teacher can take to make a student feel supported and welcomed in school. The more we do to make students feel safe, the more comfortable they will feel. The use of an interpreter provides support and confidence to students.

Prepare for Arrival

Welcoming newcomers begins with proactive identification. Collaborate with the registering secretaries and administrators to identify incoming students. Gather crucial information about the student’s language background and specific needs. Establishing a welcoming committee or a designated point of contact further enhances the preparedness for their arrival.

Establish a Welcoming Environment

Use a ready-to-use guide to provide newcomers with a comprehensive school tour to create a welcoming environment. You can offer a welcome package with translated materials and essential information. Introduce newcomers to the school community, emphasizing inclusivity and encouraging positive interactions.

Remember to introduce the student to administrators, school secretaries, counselors, nurse, and cafeteria personnel. For each person, briefly explain their roles.

Role of the Interpreter

Begin introducing the interpreter to the newcomer as a crucial ally. Explain their role in facilitating effective communication. Emphasize the importance of confidentiality and trust-building between the newcomer, interpreter, and school staff. Encourage the interpreter to establish a friendly rapport with the newcomer to enhance communication.

Communicate the School Schedule and Routine

Use the interpreter to share and discuss the daily schedule and routine in the newcomer’s native language. Provide translated written materials, including a simplified schedule, for easy reference. This is a great time to address any questions the newcomer may have about the school day, ensuring they feel comfortable and informed.

Clarify School Policies and Expectations

Utilize the interpreter to explain school policies, rules, and expectations. Ensure the newcomer comprehends essential procedures such as attendance, homework, and communication channels. Create an open space for questions and concerns, encouraging the newcomer to seek clarification and fostering a sense of confidence.

Encourage Peer Interaction

Facilitate introductions between the newcomer and other students to promote a sense of community. Encourage peer support and inclusion to help the newcomer feel a sense of belonging. Proactively promote a positive and inclusive school culture right from the start.

Assign a buddy or another student who speaks the same native language as the student to support the student on the first day of school. Choose a role model to ensure the student feels safe and respected.

== When welcoming newcomers, use an interpreter checklist to ensure that your school covers every important detail with a newcomer on the first day of school. Request a copy of the checklist we use below…

Follow-up and Continue Support

After the initial introduction, schedule follow-up meetings to address any ongoing questions or concerns. Provide continued interpreter support as needed to ensure that communication remains clear. Foster open communication channels between the newcomer, school staff, and interpreters, emphasizing ongoing support throughout their academic journey.


By implementing these strategies, schools can create a warm, inclusive, and supportive environment where non-English speaking students feel welcomed and appreciated.

Effectively using interpreters on the first day of school is a powerful step toward creating a supportive environment for newcomers. By embracing these strategies, schools can ensure that language barriers do not hinder the integration of new students, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and welcoming educational community. As we prioritize effective communication and inclusivity, every student can embark on their educational journey feeling supported and empowered.

As we continue to embrace diversity in our classrooms, I encourage you to consider the impact that a welcoming gesture, such as utilizing an interpreter on the first day, can have on our newcomer students’ overall well-being and integration. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please feel free to reach out.


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