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Examining child language brokering in schools: Developing guidance for good practice

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After migrating to a new country children often learn the local country language faster than their parents. Consequently, increasing numbers of children and young people contribute to family life by interpreting and translating for family members and peers/friends. We describe this activity as child language brokering (CLBs). One of the contexts in which CLB frequently takes place is the school setting. Professionals, like teachers, have an ambivalent attitude towards using children as language brokers as few schools have access to professional interpreting facilities across the range of home languages spoken by their parents, and only limited use can be made of bilingual teaching and support staff for interpreting. A review of the literature (Cline et al, 2010) has highlighted the lack of studies in the UK that look at teachers’ professional perspectives on these activities or of the views of students who had undertaken CLB while at school about their experiences in that setting. This presentation will report on a study supported by the Nuffield Foundation that collected data from teachers, and young adults who acted as language brokers in school as children (Ex-CLBs), to examine their perspectives and develop evidence-based guidance on this activity. After providing an overview of some of the findings, the presentation will describe the evidence-based guidance for using CLBs in school settings born out of this research study.


Dr. Sarah Crafter is a Senior Research Officer in the Thomas Coram Research Unit at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her broad areas of interest are around children and young people’s identity development and constructions of childhood in culturally diverse settings. Her work is underpinned by sociocultural theorising. As well as studying in the area of child language brokering, her research has encompassed children’s work, young caring, home-school mathematics and constructions of children’s mental health spaces.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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