Child language brokering in school: whose interests does it serve?

Cline, Tony; Crafter, Sarah and Prokopiou, Evangelia (2016). Child language brokering in school: whose interests does it serve? In: DECP Annual Conference 2016: Towards an inclusive psychology – do labels and diagnoses help or hinder?, 6-8 Jan 2016, London.


When families migrate to a new country their children often learn the local language faster than their parents. This can lead to their taking on a role as translators or interpreters for the family. That may occur in many settings, but schools are one of the most common locations for child language brokering (CLB). As part of a wider study we sought to identify what might be the special characteristics of schools as CLB sites. In a doctor's surgery or a lawyer's office children act unequivocally as brokers on behalf of their family. They do not purport to be detached or independent in the sense that a professional interpreter would aspire to be, but are seen to be working actively to support the family's interests and are partly trusted by their parents for that reason. Language brokering at school is a different situation in which the interests of parents and child may not always be aligned in the same way. When representing school perspectives to their parents and family perspectives to their teachers, children may have complex motives for transparency and for concealment. We explored these issues through an online survey and a series of episodic interviews. The participants were teachers who had used CLBs in their schools and young adults who had acted as CLBs during their own school career. We will conclude the presentation by illustrating how the implications of the findings for good practice in schools have been disseminated through web-based guidance.

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