Children Language Brokering in High Stakes Situations: Assuming the Roles of Their Latino Immigrant Parents in the United States

Rachel McGarvey


This thesis paper focuses on children "language brokering", or communicating, for their Latino immigrant parents in "high stakes" situations in the United States, in which children take on the roles and responsibilities of their parents as they use their bilingual skills to communicate often stressful information for their Spanish-speaking parents in situations with English-speaking school, medical, and police officials. Using data to show that Latino family members place high value on helping each other out, this paper differentiates household language brokering acts such as a child translating a newspaper for a parent, that feel natural for the family, from high stakes ones where children language broker in the absence of formal language services. I inform the reader about the language access services that are required by law in public spaces in the U.S. and their enforcement to show how language brokering in high stakes situations persists. My research analyzes children's and parents' feelings about their high stakes language brokering experiences and the effects of these experiences on their typical roles and responsibilities as children and parents.