Language brokering

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Language brokering is considered as an issue of youth translating language for their parents or other adults in an immigrant families background.[1] Brokering is a process of language brokers dealing with a more complex social relationship through translation.[2] Brokering between school and parents is probably a more frequent thing for language brokers than translating to friends and neighbors.[3]


Attitudes to language diversity and acceptance of immigrants may different from country to country.[4] A language broker may have different experiences than other people who are not language brokers which can affect them positively or negatively.[5] For example, young language brokers may feel stressful by their parents' high expectations.[6] The negative position thinks that as a young people or children, they are not suggested to take part in adult's world and let them act like a translator and this experience will also put pressure on them.[1] In real life, there may have some of monolingual speakers treated language brokers as they are weird because they are different.[5] On the positive side, there are a lot of benefits for young people to become a language broker such as positive development on self-concepts[7] Through language brokering, language brokers may use language, culture and social activities to improve their social skills and social cognition.[8]

The future opportunities or the further developments for language brokering still a problem for society to deal with and the society may curious about, the jobs such as work with linguistics groups.[1] For child language brokers, educators suggested school may offer some helps to help them with language and learning problems.[9]


The action of children or young people translate for parents in an immigrant family is called language brokering.[5] Language broker has to interpret the foreign languages not only into their mother language but also into intra-family language for family members [10] Besides family, language brokers may translate languages at school or friends.[11]

Immigration on IGIA


Since language brokering is happening in immigrant families,[12] there will be a challenge for those families immigrate to a country using a language they that don't speak before, and children will become a broker between two cultures and two languages.[2] By translating for adults, children can participate in many social activities related to their families.[2] Not all of the children in the immigrant families are likely to become language brokers, different families may have different choices such as larger family size may have two or three children become language broker and gender may also is a factor that influence the choice, the most likely gender for language broker may be female.[13] In some families, older children are more likely to be chosen as language brokers than younger children.[14]

In both fields of culture and linguistics, we can find the relationship between language brokering and them.[11] The ability of speaking two or three languages called bilingualism or multilingualism and it is related to the time that children move to a new country.[1] The children who are raised in immigrant family and able speak two languages, they will have more language advantages and their accent and language skills are closer to those of native speakers than others[15] Also immigrant families’ children have high willingness to learn a second language through great education which also influence their ability of language.[16] According to the study and research, bilinguals behave differently in different countries and background.[17]

Although immigrant family's children lived on a bilingual environment which provide a chance for them to become a language broker but if children do not contact much with other language speakers they may not become a language broker.[9] Language brokers who are only children in a family may likely to use a second language better than those who have siblings because they practice more.[13] Language brokering is a complex and challenging task, which involves all aspects of life such as things related to parents and family finances, and also these tasks may need language brokers to help with brokering, which may result on parents and children have a special relationship in this regard[18]

The relationship between age and ability to acquire a second language[edit]

Children at school - journal.pbio.1001463.g001.png

The act of acquiring and learning a second language by interacting with native speakers is very similar to learning the mother language.[19] The rate of language learning may be age-related.[20] Children have better ability on learning the second languages and younger language beginners processing the language difference from the older language beginners.[15] In the beginning, adult learners seem to learn faster on the second language than children, however children will perform better over time.[15] Children may need less than a year to acquire a second language, while adults may need over than one year to learn and acquire a second language.[19] Children aged 6 to 10 are also likely to be better at learning pronunciation than older children.[20] Twelve to fifteen years of age may be a relatively rapid age for acquiring and learning a second language.[19]

Adults learn a second language mainly through classroom learning, while children learn a first language may mainly through contact with their surroundings.[21] In addition to pronunciation, adults and youth may be better at learning a second language than a children.[21]

Effects of language brokering[edit]

In different stages of human development, the process of experiencing language brokering brings different effects, and parents play an important role in language brokers’ development.[1] Translation itself can be stressful, language brokering may feel stressful for brokering since they have to express language correctly without misleading others[22] Some language brokers may think that translation can help their families, so they feel happy, and being bilingual and able to speak two languages makes them proud of themselves, but this brokering experience also brings them negative emotions, such as feeling nervous when translating.[23] In terms of psychology, language brokers may have a complex mood when doing brokering, and may have both positive and negative psychological activities.[24]

Two emotions-happy and sad

Being a language broker, there are always positive and negative effects. For example, language brokering affect emotional function or cognitive.[25] The aspect of parents is an important effect to children as a second language learner and a language broker.[16] But the experience of language brokering considered as it can help language brokers have a special connection with adults, and build up their abilities on communicating with adults and provide a different way to express their stress[6] Also, translating for family or school may be more rewarding than occasionally translating for friends or neighbors.[3] And this language brokering behavior affects not only the children, but also the parents.[23] Through brokering between two languages, language brokers may still use their mother language well[13]

Language brokering is very important for immigrant families, not only related to the language brokers themselves, but also the family members may be affected, these influences are also positive and negative.[14]

Language brokering is a kind of behavior that brings about influences on language brokers such as the influence on happiness, but there are different results according to the individual.[14] Some language brokers with strong ability to adapt to the environment may be more confident when doing translation, and the translation process will be more efficient than others.[24]

Positive effects[edit]

Student from different culture backgrounds

Language brokering have positive effects that influence children's development on achieve higher academic level.[7] Compare to the students that not a language brokers, students that are language broker may appear to have a greater chance of academic success.[14] According to the study, in the class the students have the experiences of brokering resulted on performing more successful than others, and positive emotions such as feeling happy or joyful can be perform on an adolescent language broker frequently,[7] and the experience of brokering or this ability may makes language brokers feel confident[26] Through the process of language brokering, language brokers gain responsibility and become independent and mature.[3]

People who support the phenomenon of language brokering said that youth being a language broker can help them learn about both language and culture.[1] Some language brokers believe that the experience of brokering can help them know more about their original culture, and this experience also develop their ability on independent and become mature in some language brokers’ point of view.[11] These complex contexts may let young language brokers reach a higher academic achievement.[7]

This experience of language brokering may help language brokers to further improve their native language expression ability, and may also be a great help to the development of the language ability of the second language.[13] Through brokering in different areas or situations, language brokers may improve and expand their vocabulary.[13]

Negative effects[edit]

An unhappy mood

According to the study, for children working on brokering can cause difficulty on making friends which result on negative growth on self-concept such as result on feeling upset or anxious.,[7] as well as some language brokers may act more anxious than normal people.[25] Some experts believe that the behavior of language brokering should not occur in school and it is a considerable way to reduce the occurrence of these negative emotions[27]

If the children immigrate with family and play a broker role, then they might have more pressure than the children born on a family that already immigrated and have a mature bilingual environment.[7] And youth are suggested should not become a language broker because they think it is not good that youth deal with adult's problem.[1] The pressure from parents may influence young language brokers, from a study of how family members influence language brokers, the data demonstrated that language brokers can have negative emotions with their family.[22] Parents’ support is important for children or youth who is language broker and without parents’ support, they might have more depression since parent and child have a strong bond.[6] Many students find translating for their teachers and parents one of the most stressful things,language brokers who do not perform well academically also feel pressure to translate for parents and teachers.[13] There may be some pressure on language brokers when they cannot comprehend what they are going to translate[28] And for the language brokers, their ability to understand the foreign language is an important factor that may affecting an immigrant family.[14]

At school, language brokers always different from other in monolingual speaker’s eyes, therefore it will be an effect could influence young language brokers.[5] To solve these negative effects school should provide psychological help for those students that suffering from the negative outcome.[25]

Existing problems and future developments[edit]

The interpreter is translating for doctors and patients

The population of language broker increased along with immigration and the group of language broker needs to be taken seriously, the problem like gender such as girl broker might feel shy and have negative emotions about brokering for male.[22] Unlike professional translators, language broker is non-trained[11], the strict requirements for translating limit the advantages of language brokering have.[10]

Language brokers may not learn more about their mother language if they immigrate at an early age, and the development of the second language they learn in schools in the immigrant country and their mother language may cannot be balanced.[13]

Bilinguals may need to learn the names of two different languages for the same object, and their vocabularies may also be slower to develop than monolinguals.[21] And bilinguals may be weak on how to use grammar correctly.[21] The different requirements for young language brokers needed to be consider by educators since their second language skills may not be enough to compete with the native speakers.[9] Schools also may need to improve the overall language skills of those children from immigrant families through educational means.[9]

Not only the professional field but with the advantages on bilingualism, it is beneficial to factoring language brokers influence in the society such as work with linguistic or racial groups.[1]  Also language brokers can find a job opportunity on hospitals, banks or stores where they can brokering for those people in need[29]

This language brokering behavior may be something the language broker is asked to do by the parents, but this behavior may not a daily activity.[13] If this behavior become a daily activity, the language broker may not have too much pressure on brokering for adults.[13]

In the society, for example, schools may need bilingual teachers to teach different languages, and translate for those people from other parts of the society who need language brokers.[13] In this way, the pressure on students who are language brokers may be relatively reduced. In a multicultural and pluralistic society, the ability of bilinguals may be put to good use.[13]


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