Long before he began working as a bilingual associate educator for the Minneapolis Public Schools, UW-Madison alumnus Dominic Ledesma knew the importance of language learning. Ledesma always viewed language learning as a life-long commitment that required passion and responsibility. It wasn’t until he saw the impact of language learning on other people, however, that he realized the importance of language access.
After earning a masters in Language Interpretation and Translation from the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in Mexico, Ledesma returned to the States as a bilingual associate educator for schools in Minneapolis. There, he saw how the inability to understand fully and communicate because of language difference can lead to discrimination.
He remembers a specific moment where language access – and everyone’s right to it – clicked for him. A student’s parent requested a meeting with the principal. When it was clear to Ledesma that the parent didn’t understand what the principal was saying, he began to interpret, and what he saw made him realize the powers of language access.
The parent’s entire demeanor changed. Rather than the principal holding all the power, due to the language barrier between the parent and the principal, the power became more evenly distributed to the parent once Ledesma translated. The parent simply wanted to understand, and once that happened, the dynamics of the conversation shifted. This process is what Ledesma refers to as providing “equal footing” in the communication process. It helps empower persons with limited English proficiency.