A husband-and-wife team of transportation professionals is putting their language skills to good use on behalf of KCS students.
Becky Bran is a customer service representative for the KCS Transportation Department, while Rudy Bran is a bus driver. Both are native Spanish speakers, and they have also learned the Akateko dialect, providing another way to connect with students and families who need assistance.
Becky said being bilingual has been beneficial in every job she’s had, and it has made a difference when talking to parents about bus issues. Language barriers can sometimes make it hard to understand information about routes or drop-off times, but she said parents are very grateful when they can get information in their own language.
“When I get to speak to them in Spanish, they understand and they’re not as confused,” she added.
Becky Bran was born and raised in New York City to parents who were originally from Honduras. They insisted that Rebecca and her siblings speak Spanish at home, and while she didn’t like it at the time, she came to appreciate that rule after seeing the benefits of speaking both languages as an adult.
Rudy Bran grew up in Guatemala, and didn’t know any English upon coming to the U.S. at the age of 17. He learned the language little by little, and eventually began working as a bus driver because it offered a flexible schedule that complemented his work as a minister with the Jehovah’s Witnesses church.
For KCS, he drives a route in the Carter community and also drives an additional route for special education students who participate in Community-Based Instruction during the day.
Rudy said new students who don’t speak English are often apprehensive when they get on his bus, and if he can have a conversation with them it helps make them comfortable.
He first noticed the influence of the Akateko dialect in his work as a pastor, and began picking up conversational phrases to interact with parishioners. About three years ago, he and Becky traveled to Guatemala on a mission trip, and stayed in a city where that dialect was the only language spoken.
After gaining fluency in the dialect, both now use it as part of their work with families and students. Becky said that when she receives a call with an Akateko speaker on the line, they are always surprised to hear a greeting in their language.
“Just by saying a hello, a greeting – ‘What can I help you with?’, ‘Where do you live?’ – in Akateko, that comforts them,” she said. “And you can get more information out of them in the little bit of Spanish that they do know. You can just tell the difference, that they’re not as terrified that nobody’s going to understand them.”