Children as Language and Cultural Brokers in Asian American Families
For many Asian immigrants, their arrival in the United States gives them hopes for a new beginning and a brighter future. As much as some Asian immigrants want to thrive quickly in the host country, they can face many challenges. For those with limited English proficiency, simply communicating in and understanding the new language and culture may be the greatest challenge.
Life in the United States may require Asian immigrants to have interactions with others who do not speak or write their heritage languages. These situations can occur while:
- Applying for legal documents or government assistance.
- Registering children to attend school.
- Obtaining health insurance and receiving health care.
- Seeking employment.
- Trying to read letters and documents sent in English.
The Need For Children To Become Language And Cultural Brokers
Bridging Old And New Cultures
Characteristics Of Child Language Brokers
- They have acquired some knowledge of the English language and the U.S. culture.
- They have familiarity with their heritage language and culture.
Prevalence Of Child Language Brokers
- Many children of Asian immigrants begin performing brokering tasks within three years of arrival in the U.S.
- Some begin performing language brokering tasks in the early grade school years.
- Studies of high school students from Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean backgrounds have found that around 70% -90% took on the role as language brokers4,5,6.