Social workers' management of child interpreting: a qualitative study


Lucas S (2021) Social workers' management of child interpreting: a qualitative study. British Journal of Social Work, 51 (2), pp. 673-691.

Spoken language interpreters are commonly used to facilitate communication for emergent bilingual service users in social work. Children often have greater English language proficiency than their parents and may interpret for family members in a variety of contexts, including social work. This article approaches the topic of child interpreting from social workers’ perspectives and presents findings from in-depth interviews about child interpreting. Social constructionist theories are used to examine the way social workers manage child interpreting. The findings indicate that social workers manage child interpreting by monitoring, scaffolding, or stopping encounters. Through talking about child interpreting, the social workers conceptualise children as passive, vulnerable or untrustworthy. Social workers recognised the potential contributions that child interpreters offered but remained concerned about their ability to translate technical and emotionally laden messages. Given that child interpreting was found to be unavoidable in social work, there is scope to develop a framework for safe and effective child interpreting practice. Future research directions include an exploration of children’s perceptions about interpreting in social work contexts.

bilingualism; children; child language brokering; interpreting; language

British Journal of Social Work: Volume 51, Issue 2

FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
Publication date31/03/2021
Publication date online06/12/2020
Date accepted by journal14/10/2020