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Translating Childhoods

Immigrant Youth, Language, and Culture

Marjorie Faulstich Orellana

Publication Year: 2009

Translating Childhoods, a unique contribution to the study of immigrant youth, explores the "work" children perform as language and culture brokers. Children shoulder basic and more complicated verbal exchanges for non-English speaking adults. Readers hear, through children's own words, what it means be the "keys to communication" that adults otherwise would lack. From ethnographic data and research, Marjorie Faulstich Orellana's study expands the definition of child labor by assessing children's roles as translators and considers how sociocultural learning and development is shaped as a result.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Series in Childhood Studies


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

"This book was born out of research in three different communities over a twelve-year period, from 1995 to 2007. It is informed as well by my experiences as a teacher and community activist in Los Angeles throughout another decade (1983–1993). My understanding of children, childhoods, language and life have been influenced by countless people through the years, and I thank..."

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pp. 1-6

"For more than a decade, I have been documenting the work that the children of immigrants do as they use their skills in two languages to read, write, listen, speak, and do things for their families.1 I refer to a practice that has variously been called Natural Translation, family interpreting, language brokering, and para-phrasing–terms I discuss further in chapter 1. Placing phone..."

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Chapter 1: Translating Frames

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pp. 7-34

"At ten years old Estela was considered by her mother to be 'the right hand' of the family. Estela used her knowledge of English to make and answer phone calls, schedule appointments, sort and decipher the daily mail, fill out forms, apply for credit, help her younger sister with homework, and read stories-in-translation to her youngest siblings. She also helped with general household..."

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Chapter 2: Landscapes of Childhood

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pp. 35-49

"Hot summer nights in New England, circa 1970. I was ten years old, and school was out, so I got to play outside after supper until dark. Most of my siblings and the rest of the neighborhood kids were there. We sorted ourselves at times in pairs matched by age and gender; across these Irish- and German-Catholic families of five, six, eight, and ten kids, we could always find some..."

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Chapter 3: Home Work

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pp. 50-65

"Sra. Balderas got out the insurance letter that she had carefully set a side for her daughter to look at after school. When Estela walked in the door, Sra.Balderas greeted her with: 'M’ija, me ayudas con esta carta.' (My daughter, help me with this letter.] Estela set down her backpack and walked over to the couch. She peered intently at the text as her mother looked on nervously. She..."

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Chapter 4: Public Para-Phrasing

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pp. 66-78

"Like home-based translation work, public para-phrasing involved a myriad of activities involving an array of institutional domains, set in distinct relationships, and directed toward assorted problems. Children developed and used awide array of what Luis Moll calls 'funds of knowledge,'1 as they engaged in tasks that ranged from relatively simple things such as asking where items were..."

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Chapter 5: Transculturations

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pp. 79-94

"Because parent-teacher conferences offer particularly rich insights into the complexities of child language brokering on social, psychological, cultural, cognitive, and linguistic dimensions, I examine this activity setting in detail.The transactions also reveal adults’ assumptions about children and childhood, learning and development, and suggest how these beliefs influence children..."

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Chapter 6: Transformations

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pp. 95-117

“'Marjorie!' I looked up from my lunch in this restaurant frequented by university faculty on this first day of a return visit to the Midwest, startled to see 'Nova' standing straight and tall in a waiter’s white pressed shirt and red tie, looking and sounding professional, confident, mature, and at home in this position and setting. After I registered my surprise to see him here, Nova told me of..."

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Chapter 7: Translating Childhoods

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pp. 118-125

"There are many ways to understand children’s work as translators and interpreters for their families. We can focus on the burdens it sometimes places on youth and on how stress affects children’s growth and development. Turning this perspective around, we can highlight the cognitive, social, emotional, and linguistic benefits these experiences may offer to youth. We can either reject..."

Appendix A: Learning from Children

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pp. 127-142

Appendix B: Transcription Conventions

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p. 143

Appendix C: Domains of Language Brokering

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pp. 144-146


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pp. 147-162


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pp. 163-176


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pp. 177-183

About the Author

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p. 185

E-ISBN-13: 9780813548630
E-ISBN-10: 0813548632
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813545226
Print-ISBN-10: 0813545226

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Series in Childhood Studies
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Myra Bluebond-Langner, Ph.D., Founder of Rutgers University Center for Children and Childhood Studies See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 593316059
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Translating Childhoods

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Children of immigrants -- Language.
  • Translating and interpreting.
  • Immigrants -- Language.
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