Accessing assets: Immigrant youth's work as family translators or "Para-Phrasers"

  • Orellana M
  • Dorner L
  • Pulido L
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Drawing on a mixed-method program of research including the survey responses of 236 Spanish-speaking children, as well as extensive interviews, participant observation, and audiotaped data gathered in four different communities, we unpack the ways in which bilingual youth use their knowledge of English and U.S. cultural/institutional practices to speak, listen, read, write, and do things for their immigrant parents, mostly from Mexico. We demonstrate how immigrant children's work as translators and interpreters opens families' access to resources, knowledge, and information in a wide range of domains: educational, medical/health, commercial, legal/state, financial/employment, housing/residential, and cultural/entertainment. In discussing the realm of each domain, we consider how negotiations both within the family and between the family and the public sphere are variously shaped by power relations. We consider how youth's social positions as children, and as children of immigrants, may constrain their ability to access certain institutional goods, at the same time as we demonstrate their active and powerful involvement in family decision-making processes both inside and outside the home.

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  • Marjorie Faulstich Orellana

  • Lisa Dorner

  • Lucila Pulido

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