A Qualitative Analysis of What Latino Parents and Adolescents Think and Feel About Language Brokering
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As the population of children living in immigrant and non-English speaking households continues to increase, children may be placed in the position to serve as an interpreter for their parents (i.e., a language broker). Relatively few studies, however, have obtained fathers’ reactions to their children serving as language brokers or explored the reasons why language brokering is linked to positive and negative youth outcomes. We interviewed 25 Latino adolescents (14 girls, 11 boys) and their parents (18 mothers, 11 fathers) using a semi-structured interview protocol. Interviews were digitally recorded and then transcribed, and themes were coded from the transcripts. When describing positive feelings associated with language brokering, parents and youth talked about children helping the family and the benefit of speaking two languages. When youth shared negative feelings, they talked about difficulties when words were complex and beyond their own English/Spanish language abilities. Children seemed to find language brokering experiences in health-related settings particularly difficult. Our findings begin to shed light on a relatively unexplored area of language brokering thereby highlighting a need for more studies examining youth’s understanding about the material being translated. Moreover, the relational aspect of language brokering within the family also merits further study given that for some families language brokering is a “shared” parent–child experience.
KeywordsLanguage brokering Immigrant children Family relationship Adolescents
This study was funded by a grant awarded from the Virginia Commonwealth University Council for Community Engagement. We would like to thank the families who shared their experiences and time with us, our community partners who supported the project, and Ms. Ivette Santiago who provided guidance regarding participant recruitment. We are also thankful to Adam Iglesias, Anya Moon, Karen Mendez, Karin DeLeon, and Mauricio Taborga who helped with data collection, transcription, and coding.
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