Child Interpreting in Social Work: Competence versus Legitimacy


Lucas SE (2015) Child Interpreting in Social Work: Competence versus Legitimacy. Transnational Social Review, 5 (2), pp. 145-160.

Child interpreting refers to persons under the age of 18, be it migrant children or children born to migrant parents, who interpret for their parents and other adults who do not share a mutual language. In England, it is estimated that over 300 language varieties are spoken on a daily basis. Within this multilingual context, social workers may work with families with different degrees of English language proficiency, and use an interpreter to facilitate interaction. This article draws upon empirical research from semi-structured interviews with nine social workers in social work settings in England and focuses on their experiences and viewpoints about children who interpret in social work contexts. The social workers approached child interpreting in two main ways, either permitting or prohibiting this practice. The article focuses on the way that the social workers construct understandings about children's competence to interpret, and how they navigate challenges and complexities. The findings illuminate an invisible area of social work practice, and offer a useful way to conceptualize debates about children's competence to act as interpreters, vis-à-vis their ascribed legitimacy.

interpreting; language; informal interpreter; transnational childhoods

Transnational Social Review: Volume 5, Issue 2

Publication date31/08/2015
Publication date online07/04/2015
PublisherTaylor and Francis