New translation device helps international students in classes and studies

Aug 26, 2023, 2:59 PM | Updated: 3:02 pm

HERRIMAN, Utah — As Herriman High School continues to see the number of international students increasing, the school is turning to a game-changing device that is helping break down the language barrier.

Principal Todd Quaranberg said when he first started as principal, there was around a 4% minority population. These days, he said, that number is up to 28%.

Quaranberg said the learning gap is being made more significant by the language barrier, which is something he never could have predicted or prepared for in the past.

But now, with the help of some earbuds, he said learning is a whole lot smoother.

Quaranberg said he learned about Timekettle Translator earbuds at a conference and decided to pilot it. It’s something so small is now making a big difference for dozens of international students.

The Timekettle Translator earbuds being used by student Rianyelis. (KSL TV)


That includes Rianyelis, who is a junior at Herriman High School. Coming from Venezuela, August marks her ninth month in the United States and schooling in Utah.

“(My family are) immigrants. They came here for a better future: My mom, my dad, and myself,” Rianyelis said.

For students like her, coming to America knowing no English, the transition into a new country and culture is challenging enough on its own.

“The last two years, we’ve probably picked up 200 immigrants into Herriman, which was, I couldn’t have prepared for what was coming,” Rianyelis said.

Quaranberg said while teachers were trying to help students as best they could, they needed something that could meet the students exactly where they were.

“There was just this need to equalize the playing field so they would have access to the same education,” Quaranberg said.

Rianyelis and her teacher communicating with the help of the earbuds. (KSL TV)

With the help of something that looks and functions just like an Airpod, the devices are changing the game in the classroom for international students and teachers.

“I do think they’re awesome, and they do help me a lot,” Rianyelis said.

The headphones translate what the teacher says into the language and dialect the student speaks. In Rianyelis’ case, the device translates into the Venezuelan dialect of Spanish right onto her phone in real-time.

“I mean, the teacher can have a device in, and you have six or seven kids out there that it’s translating right to their desk, and when they ask questions, the students will give a Spanish answer, and it’ll translate back to the teacher,” Quaranberg said.

Rianyelis said the device has helped her learning, especially history.

“I didn’t understand the class before I had the headphones,” said she.

Luis, a junior from Venezuela, said the translating AirPods would have helped him a lot with school, particularly science.

“They used technical language for most of the stuff you see in class… not a native English speaker, not gonna understand most,” Luis said.

The app used to translate different languages in real time. (KSL TV)

He said learning the language came by way of a dictionary and the TV.

“It was by accident. It was just me seeing the TV and not seeing how to change the English on the series of movies and stuff to Spanish, so I had to learn what it is, just sat on the couch and seeing, like, eight seasons of ‘The Walking Dead’ completely in English!” Luis said.

So, as not to be a crutch and because there are not enough devices to go around to all international students, Quaranberg said whoever is new to the country and struggling with the language is issued a device first.

From there, they are encouraged to learn the language as quickly as possible so they can return them back to the pool.

“These kids are education-minded. These kids from Venezuela value education, and now we’re getting Afghan kids who want a fresh start at the American dream, right? So, I think this is a model I hope other schools will adopt,” Quaranberg said.

The principal said there have been around 200 students who are brand new within the district within the last couple of years. The school only has 50 devices.

This past year, the school applied for grants, and while they did receive funding for the devices because each device set ranges from $250-$300, the hope is they can gain around 200 more devices to split between teachers and students.

“What are we gonna do to help them? We’ll help those kids. They’re not those kids. They’re our kids,” Quaranberg said.

He said the devices are not only great for the students but also being used in the attendance office. When parents come in, he said they are proving to help break down the communication barrier when used in parent-teacher conferences.

If you would like to learn more about the need, you are encouraged to visit the Jordan Education Foundation website or contact your local school district.

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New translation device helps international students in classes and studies