Cultural Psychology, CUSP, Social Psychology, Uncategorized

Experiences of child language brokers – a CuSP discussion

On 29 November, the Culture and Social Psychology (CuSP) Research Collaboration had a very lively meeting where we discussed our colleague Dr Sarah Crafter‘s recent draft paper (co-authored with Humera Iqbal of UCL) “Managing conflict during linguistic and cultural encounters: the role of children who language broker”.

The paper focuses on children born into immigrant families who in various official (i.e. talking to police) or non-official (i.e., talking to shopkeepers) situations have to work as interpreters or “language brokers” between members of their families and native British authorities. As the paper persuasively and sensitively exposes, the role involves managing situations and conflicts which require nuanced language as well as affective skills that go well beyond the expectations of each side. The paper focuses on children’s accounts as to how they manage these dilemmas and navigate the “contact zone” of conflict between their families and those in authority positions.

During the discussion of a fascinating paper locating this phenomenon in theoretical context, it has repeatedly been pointed out how the paper conveys the expertise and wide repertoire of these children: “emotional labour” is one term the paper uses to capture an activity that these children exhibit on behalf of both sides. Another metaphor, this time from the discussion, likened their activity to “riding bicycles in London” (i.e., monitoring the roads at all levels).

We can hopefully encounter further insights on intercultural encounters (as well as many other related topics) in Sarah’s co-authored book Developmental transitions: Exploring stability and change through the lifespan that is due to be published next year by Routledge.


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