Distinction between Language Brokers & Translators

When we discuss about bilingual education and its importance, we notice that in today’s world it is profitable to be proficient in more than one language. As things go, English (American English) has become a global language. Most of the research in different fields is available in English only, which makes it an arduous task to translate all of it in other languages. Therefore, English is being taught as a second language in many countries. When we talk about bilingualism, which means being able to speak in more than one language, we come across different terms. Language brokering and translation are two such terms. It is important to understand the difference and importance of both in language.

Language brokering refers to the task of translating (written material) and interpreting (oral language) without receiving any formal training. Language brokers do not adopt translation as a career but rather do it as a social activity. This language brokering is usually done by children for their immigrant parents who are not yet efficient in the dominant language of the society they have migrated to. Language brokers involve themselves personally while translating some document and often act as “mediators” in a situation. It has been observed that language brokers are often bilingual children who perform the job of language brokering for their elders. Even an 8 year old child can become a language broker. Usually, the language brokers are well in their teens. Socialists observed a lot of language brokering being done by LM (Language Minority) students belonging to Chinese or Vietnamese immigrant families. But language brokering is somewhat different from translation in that, the students not only translate letters from school, job applications, bank and credit card statements, rental agreements or immigration forms, they are part of the decision making process, while acting as a mediator. This has also a strong influence on the educational experiences of these students. Bilingualism or multilingualism sharpens the reasoning of a person, making the performance of the brain more efficient.

The social impacts of a child’s assuming the role of a mediator in many situations for his parents can have both negative and positive consequences. In some cases, it has been observed that the children develop a stronger bond with their families and become more concerned for their families. In some cases, the children develop a negative view of their parents being subjected to a role reversal. Sometimes the children find themselves in awkward situations and have to translate classified information about themselves or their parents which they shouldn’t be exposed to. While socialists studied a group of students, they came across mixed results about the children’s feelings towards their role as language brokers. Some took pride in it and found it enjoyable while others felt it stressful to translate accurately.

Now we come to translators. Translators unlike language brokers have specialized training and experience to translate documents. Professional translators or interpreters focus only on delivering the information accurately as it is. They never get involved personally, never influence decisions, but just act as a bridge between two linguistically and culturally different parties. professional translators and translation service companies are an authority on translation. If we want to get a document translated in order to submit it to an institution, we will need the help of professional translators for this purpose. Language brokers and translators/interpreters both do an important task for the society, which is to bring people from different cultures closer and to help the immigrants in a country lead their lives smoothly.



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