Child language brokering: Spaces of belonging and mediators of cultural knowledge

Crafter, S. and Iqbal, H. (2016). Child language brokering: Spaces of belonging and mediators of cultural knowledge. In: Non-professional Interpreting and Translation, 05 May - 07 May 2016, Winterthur, Switzerland.



The study of child language brokers (i.e. young people who interpret and translate for their families and others), has mainly been concerned with specific activities or features of young people?s lives (Tse 1995). There has been less systematic work looking at how cultural knowledge and identity is mediated by children through the process of language brokering (for exceptions see Orellana et al. 2009; Crafter et al., 2014). This paper draws on data collected with young people which moves beyond a focus on literal translation to look language brokering as mediator of knowledge, identity, values and norms. The study is interested in looking at how language brokering works as a ?cultural contact zone? where cultures meet, are negotiated and perhaps, confrontational (Pratt, 1999; O'Sullivan-Lago & Abreu, 2008). We also looks beyond the physical spaces of language brokering and attempt to access the 'imagined' spaces of identity belonging to explore the 'aboutness' of self (Zittoun, 2007) in the process of language brokering in young people. Data was collected using qualitative interview vignettes with young language brokers (aged 14-18) from schools in London and the South of England. Our child language brokers describe the integral connection of language to their sense of belonging and ability to access to particular cultural and social spaces. They told us that brokering did help them to understand their own culture, the host culture and other cultures better. They also report on the challenges of cultural mediation and highlight particular examples of incidents where confrontation, humour and embarrassment result when different cultures meet.

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