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While reading some news on child interpreters in the US this week, the question arose: what is the situation with child interpreters in the UK?

For many years families coming to the UK have relied on their children’s support to communicate with other parents, schools, the Health Service, local council and others.

In the 2011 Census statistics on English language skills were collected, which gives an idea of the number of people who may be relying on child interpreters. 8% of residents aged three and over spoke a different main language other than English or Welsh were proficient in speaking English. Most of these could speak English very well or well, but 726,000 could not speak English well and 138,000 could not speak English at all.

For many of these people their children, who are growing up in English schools and learning the language from their peers, are an invaluable support. However, relying on child interpreters can put a lot of stress on the children, whose work, like child carers, is often hidden. Interpreting can be quite stressful, with child interpreters dealing with complex situations and terminology without training. They may feel uncomfortable being involved in adult conversations or make honest mistakes due to lack of specialist vocabulary.

Nuffield Research has published a document to help those who are involved in interactions with child interpreters in a school setting, and suggests that they should be called “child language brokers” rather than interpreters, in recognition of the fact that they are not specialist interpreters, and act rather more as intermediaries.

Accutranslate has many trained interpreters who have experience of interpreting in adult situations. If you are dealing with child language brokers, please consider using a properly qualified interpreter instead. If you know schools, health providers or others who rely on child interpreters, please ask them to contact us to talk about how we can support non-English speakers that they are dealing with.

Nuffield Research: http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/files/Child%20Language%20Brokering%20-%20Good%20Practice%20Guide%20-%20June%202014.pdf