Typically, parent teacher conferences are scheduled twice a year. In the past, they've been held in the teacher's classroom with only the teacher and the parent(s) present.
More recently, some school districts have introduced a few innovations. One of the most effective has been inviting the student to the conference. The hope is that with your child present, all the interested parties can communicate more clearly with one another. This kind of conference represents a rare opportunity for your kid to bend the teacher's ear without his or her classmates competing for attention.
Another variation on the parent teacher conference reverses the usual location of the meeting. Instead of you going to school, the teacher comes to you. The idea here is that some parents have negative childhood associations with schoolrooms, so they feel more at ease meeting in their own homes.
In many school districts, if you don't speak the same language as the teacher, you have the right to request an interpreter.
Bottom line: Teachers want to make these conferences meaningful and effective. Otherwise, they're just a waste of time with lots of paperwork!