This book tells the stories of a group of young people who are translators and interpreters for family, friends and their local community. Sometimes this activity is described as language brokering because it often involves more than just wordfor-word translating. Sometimes it also involves translating cultures. The young people were asked to do the following: “Think about a specific occasion when you translated for someone else in a specific setting and try to identify within yourself how you feel. When you feel ready, choose whatever colors you want and try to express this feeling on the paper with a drawing that will depict this occasion” After the group had drawn their pictures and told their stories they talked of friendship, camaraderie, pride, empathy and altruism. They also talked about difficult situations and the hardships of learning a new language and the stress of certain situations. Join them in their journeys of translation as you read the different stories…..
The faces on the left are all Sadir’s friends from a Young Interpreter club at school. They are all translators like him. Although English is the common language, many of his friends speak different languages and that makes them feel confident. They enjoy being members of a group of young people whose skills are appreciated by those who need help. “When you are translating you feel happy, puzzled, proud and confident...and sometimes you have no feelings about it... It doesn’t mean anything, its just normal for us.” For Tariq, translating also felt normal “…basically I don’t have any story about translation. I mean I do, but I don’t really remember them and I don’t really have any feelings while I translate. So that means I have no feelings” #nofeelings But in our club, we can share stories about our translating. Here we invite you to step into our world and learn more about what we do…..
There are some situations that make translating difficult…. In the drawing we can see a real story that takes place Estera’s life very often. She gets asked to translate about something really important and sometimes she is asked to translate words that she does not understand, like medical terms, sometimes over the phone. The ‘mysterious man on the phone’ is getting annoyed with her, and so is her mum… “Your parents get angry and you get nervous and stressed because you hate that feeling when you cannot translate something! So you feel you have to learn more and more of both languages to feel more confident . But you are still unsure of some phrases and you are avoiding translating or interpreting for your parents because you hate it...Ahh!”
Marta described a time when she went with her mother to the bank. â€œWhen we went, the monster lady at the bank did not understand how difficult translating can be for me and that I donâ€™t always understand everything that is said. So she was being impatient and my mum was getting cross too and I was in the middleâ€? In such situations, young interpreters sometimes feel confused and unsure if their translating is correct...
There are other situations which are more positive… Kokumo can speak Italian and English. One time, when she was visiting her best friend Michal, in Italy (who can’t speak English), she had to do some translating. “We were walking to the bus stop when I noticed a couple of Japanese tourists who were lost. They were so cute and obviously confused because no one could speak English around them (or Japanese!). I decided to help! So I went to them and asked them if they were ok and offered them instructions. Meanwhile Michal was confused and not understanding anything and started asking me questions in Italian. So I was translating what was happening back to him. I was explaining everything twice in 2 languages! Sometimes this happens as a translator. It’s great to be able to help too.”
Kokumo wasn’t the only translator who enjoyed being able to help others. Elijah also told a story about a time when he was out and about one day. “A man came up to me who spoke Italian and no English He saw my uniform and wanted some information about my school. Lucky for him I speak Italian too! So I was able to give him information. Sometimes you will have to translate in places where you don’t expect too.”
It is not just strangers who young translators help out. They are often proud to help family members. Hristo told us he often has to help his parents who don’t speak English. He told us about a time when he went with them to his sister’s school to register her there. “I helped to translate the information they needed to write in the document. They also needed help with language assessments and information about the school’s uniform. I was happy to help and felt useful! But I also felt nervous that I would make a mistake. I have learned now that being nervous is not good and you must be calm and do not worry about anything”
School is a frequent place where young translating takes place. As well as helping out family, translators also help other pupils. Samadhi particularly enjoyed helping new students settle into the school. Especially if they have recently moved to the UK and are learning to speak English. She would show them around and translate for them â€œThis becomes a routine in school where you help new students who come from your country or speak your language. You usually help the family and the new student to understand the rules of the school or to give advice of what the student has to do. And it is a pleasure for you to help people because you like to be helpful, feel useful and meet new peopleâ€?
Ellora and Makin’s stories of translating are also set in school! They described times when new students come to the school and share their languages. “Many of us speak more than 3 languages because we have lived in different parts of the world before we moved with our families to Britain. We help the new students and their family learn about the school and show them around. It means a lot to us to be able to help. We also know what it feels like because when we came to Britain we didn’t speak English and everything was new, exciting and scary!”
We hope you enjoyed hearing our stories….here are some of things we learned together from creating our drawings…. We all have something in common and even though we are all making mistakes, someone else is in the same situation so we shouldn’t feel bad about that (Estera) Coming to this country I met a lot of people coming from different backgrounds and I know how it felt (Kokumo) I remember when I was one of the very few Polish people at this school and I didn’t understand anything like… But its fine now because I see most of the people coming here are the same (Estera)
This book was created with the support ofâ€Ś The Arts and Humanities Research Council We are grateful to our funders, the Arts and Humanities Research Council for supporting our research with child language brokers. Project Lead, Sarah Crafter Research Officer, Humera Iqbal Arts lead, Claire Robins University College London Beacon Bursary for Public Engagement The art workshop for this book was made possible by the funds we received from the UCL Beacon Bursary for Public Engagement. Young translators and interpreters are Eastbrook Comprehensive School The drawings were created by a group of language brokers who belong to a Young Interpreter club at Eastbrook Comprehensive School. This book was only made possible by their willingness and openness to share their stories with us. Evangelia Prokopiou, art workshop leader The art workshop was led by Evangelia Prokopiou who works as a cultural-developmental psychologist at the University of Northampton studying the impact of immigration on cultural identity development of children, adolescents and adults. Kremena Dimitrova The drawings by the young people were designed into a comic style by illustrator, Kremena Dimitrova. For more information about this study go to www.languagebrokeringidentities.com