Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A New Study of Language Brokering

Publications about Language Brokering (LB) have been sparse of late, but here’s one. The author, Jennifer Kam (see photo), is new to me. It begins with a neat definition (the emphasis is mine):
“Language brokering is the communication process where individuals with no formal training (often children of immigrant families) linguistically mediate for two or more parties (usually adult family members and individuals from mainstream culture).”
The article is a good illustration of how LB research focuses on the sociological and psychological aspects of the activity rather than on the translating itself. The study examined the direct and indirect effects of language brokering on mental health and ‘risky’ behaviours among 684 Mexican-heritage youths from schools in Phoenix, Arizona. ‘Risky behaviours’ includes smoking and drinking alcohol. For more, see Reference below.

Jennifer A. Kam (School of Communication, Ohio State University). The Effects of Language Brokering Frequency and Feelings on Mexican-Heritage Youth's Mental Health and Risky Behaviors. Journal of Communication, Volume 61, Issue 3, pages 455–475, June 2011. Abstract at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01552.x/abstract.

Using linguistically mediate instead of translate is itself indicative of the social and psychological slant.

Journal of Communication thoughtfully provides translations of its abstracts in several languages, and this enables us to establish the following equivalences for language brokering.
German: Sprachvermittlung – actually a much older term than language brokering, but it often happens that old terms are given new uses.
French: médiation linguistique
Spanish: mediación del lenguaje
There’s also Chinese and Korean.

Image: Ohio State University.

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