Reconstructing Moral Identities in Memories of Childhood Language Brokering Experiences



Language brokering is a common phenomenon, whereby children of immigrant parents mediate both verbally and with written documents between their parents and other different language speakers or writers, converting meanings in one language into meanings in another. This paper explores some of the moral identities – the interplay between moral ideals and individuals' personal identities – adults construct from their memories of their activities as child language brokers. Qualitative research on adults who were, and to a large extent still are, language brokers for their parents, found that in the context of parent-teacher meetings, some individuals recast their behaviours in a manner that rendered themselves as good, honest, ethical and well-behaved students. This paper argues that the moral identities individuals construct from memories of their childhood experiences have social and cultural dimensions, and are contingent upon the context and the situation. The paper also has policy implications with regards to the status of the child, and the relationship of that status to cultural context and expectation, given that the circumstances of their lives cannot be removed. Regarding policy, this research could inform practitioners, schools, and the general public about the impact of language brokering experiences on children, and may help in some way to alleviate the stress/burdens associated with language brokering. Additionally, it could bring about increasing understanding of how people establish identities based on their lived experiences.