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Q and A: Amparo Ames, translator for Newport-Mesa district

November 08, 2010|By Tom Ragan, tom.ragan@latimes.com
  • Amparo Ames, the school and community relations coordinator for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, serves as an interpreter for Spanish speakers at district meetings.
Amparo Ames, the school and community relations coordinator… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

For 25 years, Amparo Ames has been a common sight at Newport-Mesa Unified school board meetings. She translates English into Spanish for Latino parents.

So in a zone is Ames when on the job that she's been jokingly been called the 'mumbler' — for the manner in which she puts her hand over her mouth and transmits Spanish words to parents wearing headphones in the audience

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Conversely, when the Spanish-speaking parents have questions to ask, Ames steps out into the audience like a talk show hosts and translates Spanish to English for the board members.

The following is a question-and-answer session with Ames.

Where were you born?

Mexico City. I lived in two different neighborhoods there, in a place called Navarte, then as a teenager, I lived in Bosque de las Lomas.

Did you go to college there?

Yes, I went to La Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, where I earned a B.A. in TESOL, which stands for the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

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How did you wind up in California?

I met my husband in 1982, when I was studying for a master's degree at La Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City. He was from the San Francisco Bay Area. We ended up getting married, and I moved to Northern California with him.

When did you start working with the Newport-Mesa district?

1985.

What is your title?

I'm the district's coordinator for school and community relations, but one of my chief duties is to interpret for the district at the school board meetings and all sorts of parent events.

I noticed you said 'interpret.' What's the difference between 'interpret' and 'translate?'

Interpreting is oral; translating is actually something you usually do in writing, but that's just in the United States. Most Latin American countries just have one word for translating, and it's 'traducir.'

Hmm, that's interesting. How many Spanish-speaking students are there in the district?

There are 7,793 students who speak Spanish in the home but speak English at their schools.

Is bilingual education being taught at any of the schools in the district?

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