Over one million immigrants and refugees—many of whom are children—relocate to the U.S. each year. Upon relocation, families often need translation assistance, and youth are regularly asked to step into that role. Researchers call this phenomenon language brokering. The present manuscript describes two studies that examined the prevalence, frequency, and sentiments associated with language brokering. Language brokering has predominantly been studied among Latinx and Chinese-American children, and the present studies fill a gap in the literature by expanding this work to include diverse groups of youth (e.g., refugees and immigrants of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds). Researchers distributed questionnaires to high school ESL students in Portland, OR, the majority of whom were immigrants and refugees (Study One), and middle and high school-aged adolescents in an afterschool program in six locations throughout the U.S. (Study Two). Both studies found that language brokering is prevalent. In Study One, older adolescents reported feeling more pressure to, but also more useful when translating. Refugees felt more pressure to translate than immigrants, and participants from Middle Eastern countries were more likely to report feeling bad when translating than adolescents from African and Latin American countries. Asian adolescents reported greater stress translating than African and Latinx adolescents. In Study Two, Latinx adolescents reported greater prevalence, frequency, and competence language brokering than Black adolescents, and reported feeling more useful translating than those with ethnicities of multiethnic/other. Male participants were more likely to report feeling bad and embarrassed than female participants. These results show that language brokering is occurring among ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse youth, and that youth associate a variety of sentiments with such translation.
Keywords: Language brokering, immigrants, refugees, adolescents