Child language brokering in school: when should a child not be used as a language broker?

Cline, Tony; Crafter, Sarah and Prokopiou, Evangelia (2016). Child language brokering in school: when should a child not be used as a language broker? In: 3rd International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation, 05-07 May 2016, Winterthur, Switzerland.



When families migrate to a new country their children often learn the local language faster than their parents. In particular, the children's attendance at school expedites learning the new language, and in turn they often become translators or interpreters for their family. Schools are one of the most common settings for this activity. As part of a wider study examining teachers and child language brokers experiences of brokering in school we sought answers to the following questions: What are the special characteristics of schools as sites for child language brokering (CLB)? To what degree are CLBs used in routine contacts with parents (their own & those of others), in more sensitive discussions about vulnerable pupils (e.g. about special educational needs) and in discussions when crucial matters are being resolved (e.g. planning for subject choices during their secondary school career)? There is general acceptance of the principle that children should not be asked to translate for their parents or others when very serious or sensitive matters are being discussed, but do those who are directly involved abide by that principle? This paper will report data that is relevant to these questions from an online survey and a series of episodic interviews with teachers who had used CLBs in their schools and young adults who had acted as CLBs during their own school career. The ways in which these questions are resolved in UK schools have to be understood in the context of national traditions of pastoral care in education. The participants' observations reflect underlying assumptions about the nature of childhood and emerging development that they themselves had or perceived in others.

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