Transforming lives through digital literacy.

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CTN provides biweekly training to a group of Austin residents through the HACA/Austin Pathways Lab Apprentice Program. These trainings prepare the students to serve more than 500 affordable-housing residents with the goal of increasing their digital skills to help them re-enter the workforce. 

As CTN’s development coordinator, any chance I have to join the classrooms I help support through fundraising is exciting and helpful. Last week, I worked with the HACA apprentices on how to communicate with residents who speak different languages. The training was requested because of the difficulty of teaching residents who had a limited grasp of English, including those who primarily spoke Arabic and Pashto. Though some were able to translate from Spanish, most were searching for general strategies to deal with language barriers. We tried to find a solution that could solve all of these problems effectively and easily.

Before coming to CTN earlier this year, I had spent time abroad working with refugee communities that included people from all over the world. Naturally, translation was an essential part of my job, and I often turned to translation apps when French or English wasn’t useful. For the apprentices, I suggested the Google Translate app’s Conversation function, which allows two people to communicate seamlessly even when they are speaking two different languages. We even got to see the app in action when an Arabic-speaking resident entered the room to ask about ongoing computer classes. Using the translation app, the resident and I picked out a beginner computer class for the following Monday. After seeing the tool put to work, the apprentices were eager to try out the app for themselves.

CTN will continue providing training for the the Lab Apprentice Program through August. The apprentices are now staffed at seven community labs throughout Austin.

If you would like to learn more about the programs CTN offers in Austin, please contact our team at austin@communitytechnetwork.org.

Overcoming Language Barriers with a Translation App

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Calvin Clites
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