Children, as Language Broker

Image result for children and parents switching roles

My Experiences

Reflecting back, during my childhood I feel, that part of me was sort of taken away from me due to the responsibilities that I had to take in my family.  Being the oldest child in the family was sort of a challenge for me because English is our second language and both of my parents don’t speak English as well.  Therefore, since there is that language barrier between my parents and the Western culture I had to stand in between to help as much as I could.  However, how could I when I was only 6 years old my parents forced me to translate at the doctor’s office during my parents visits to their clinic appointments.  This was very frightening and scary for me because first of all, I had no idea how to translate those medical terms into my language?  Second of all, I was way too young to be translating and with English being my second language I was also already struggling myself? Last, but not least, I was put on a spot light where I wasn’t sure what was going on?  My parents looked up to me to take responsibilities when it has anything to do with the Western cultures and they would take their own responsibility when it comes to providing me with my needs.

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What is language broker?

According to, “Studies of language brokering in the U.S. typically define language brokers as children who translate the English language and interpret cultural practices for their parents,” (Morales & Hanson, 2005).  Majority of parents who immigrated into the United States are commonly challenged with language barriers.  In addition, to that they would depend on their children to help them with that challenge that they lack.  When children are put in this position this confuses their roles as children. For instance, “language brokering positions children in very influential roles in families, roles that may or may not be developmentally appropriate” (Tse, 1995b).  In other words, the children who are put in this responsibility roles might be confused that he/she are given authority to also rule over their parents as well. “As these children become increasingly powerful cultural agents on behalf of their families, with license to communicate and to speak for their parents, parents may find themselves in more disempowered roles, often deferring to their children when faced with important family decisions,” (Martinez, 2006; Santisteban et al., 2002; Tse, 1995b).

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