Saturday, August 6, 2016

Child Culture Brokering

In 2012 some well-wishers of mine at the Jaime I University in Castellón, Spain, put together a collection of articles related to my work on Natural Translation (see Reference below). The one that still stands out in my mind is Nigel Hall and Zhiyan Guo's Child language and cultural brokering. For several reasons, of which the main one is the concept of child culture brokering (CCB), which it introduces as an extension to the more familiar child language brokering (CLB). CLB, for any of you who don't already know it, is the interpreting that children of immigrants do between the new communities around them and members of their own families and friends who aren't yet fluent in the new language. Hall and Zhiyan enrich CLB with observations that show how such children not only convey language but also social mores. This is of course important for adaptation to a new life.

(Note that Hall and Guo were at Manchester Metropolitan University, not the University of Manchester, from where most of the Mancunian publications about translation emanate. This may help explain their originality. Hall is an authority on childhood literacy. It is noteworthy too that their data comes from England and not from the USA, which is where most of the research on CLB has been done.)

The story that they tell to illustrate their point is one that did something research papers rarely do for me: it made me laugh, Well anyway, chuckle. It's the tale of a Chinese couple from Taiwan who come to live in England with their little girl and who get caught up in the ritual of children's birthday parties, something unknown in Taiwan. The girl and her mother are faced with many new decisions: what to wear, what to give as a present, etc. But it is the child who is in contact with the English community through her school and has constantly to inform and instruct the mother. With the result that it is the child, as in most CLB situations too, who runs the show.
"The cultural impact of the children's behaviour at an accommodative level was that the parents' views and beliefs about childhood were constantly being challenged In many respects everyday living it was like living on a frontier between Chinese notions of civilized child/parent relationships and British children's autonomy and freedom. Many things the children said or did, things that they had adsorbed unquestioningly from their school and peer communities, created dissonance and discomfort for their parents."
Fortunately there was a happy ending.
"The parents were very sensitive to their children's need to fit in to the school and peer community, and the result was that there was considerable compromise on the part of the parents."
And the story ends with a father saying, "If I go back to Taiwan I would start having birthday parties for my children."

And Hall and Guo's conclusion:
"We may have put less attention on language to give more attention to these children's other mediating behaviours, but like Harris we believe in the importance of studying people in their everyday lives, and there is nothing more fascinating and informative than the everyday lives of children."
Child culture brokering is a virtually untilled field that cries out for more investigation.

Nigel Hall and Zhiyan Guo. Child language and cultural brokering. In M. A. Jiménez Ivars and M. J. Blasco Mayor (eds.), Interpreting Brian Harris: Recent Developments in Translatology, Berne, Lang, 2012, pp. 51-75. Available through Amazon.

Source: Bricks 4 Kidz. Spot the Chinese kid.


  1. I just want to say thanks for this well written article

  2. Thank you for the great articles. You did a great job putting them together.
    Certified Translation Jordan