Dr Sarah Crafter, Institute of Education


Young interpreters are almost invisible within UK society but make a deeply important contribution family life, local communities and institutions. The work of young interpreters is very common but highly undervalued and unrecognised (Antonini, 2010). Child language brokers (CLBs) interpret or translate between family members/peers and officials (usually adults) who do not speak the home language. They are referred to as language brokers because the role often requires them to act as negotiators or intermediaries of cultural values, norms and knowledge, and positions them across different spaces of belonging. In other words, they literally “Translate Cultures”. The aim of this project is to provide new understandings of how cultural knowledge and identities of belonging are narrated by the child language brokers.

Findings from the PIs previous work have indicated that child language brokers feel a great deal of pride in interpreting for family and peers but do not feel recognised, valued or fully understood outside of this immediate sphere of experience. This project will render their work visible in two novel ways: by researching how cultural knowledge and identities are mediated by language brokering and by producing a documentary film and web exhibition to enhance awareness of the valuable contribution made by young language brokers.

It will do this by using interdisciplinary methodologies combining digital film, ethnographic observations, voice recorded diaries, written diaries and art work e.g. self-portraiture. These combined methodologies have never been used in research with child language brokers and will provide unchartered insight into brokers’ identities of belonging and contributors of cultural knowledge. As previously mentioned, a key output will be a documentary film that will bring together a set of non-linear arts activities in a summarising format that speaks to enhancing the awareness of a largely invisible group of young people. The film content will be led by the young people but is likely to include audio/video from the observational ethnography (with respondent’s permission), video of a series of arts event activities with commentary about those activities by the young people themselves. Event activities include, but not exclusively so, script writing, suitcase method, and ‘self in space’ portraiture. Finally, these materials will be co-creatively curated with some of the participating young people into a web exhibition. This in itself is a part of the narrative journey.

The project draws on a range of expertise including the Young Interpreter Network and Routes into Language, who will assist in recruiting respondents. Alan Fentiman (film maker and web designer) has extensive experience working with vulnerable young people through film. Claire Robins runs arts workshops with young people and curates participatory museum exhibitions. Advisory group expertise includes specialist knowledge of children’s identities, ethnography, child language brokering and bilingualism (Oxford Brookes University, Open University, University College London, IOE), participatory arts and museum studies (Media, Culture and Communication, IOE), and policy advice (Language Centre Cambridge/Speak to the Future). There will be three full team meetings and two network meetings that will involve the research team, interpreter/language specialists, policy advisors, film/photography makers, and some more ‘mature’ young interpreters. There will a web exhibition launch and conference event involving the young people, their parents, academics, language networks and policy advisors. We will ask a range of professional networks to show the film and web exhibition on their online sites/TV networks.


Dr Sarah Crafter

RCUK Gateway to Research