Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 Competition for Child Translators

On Christmas Day I was listening to a concert from Brussels on TV. One of the works was a beautifully performed Bach double violin concerto. Of the soloists, one was a young woman, young but adult. The other was a girl who was just as accomplished as her companion but who looked no older than twelve. A mere child, but gifted; a musical genius. She started me thinking about child translators.

It's not necessary for a child to be 'exceptionally gifted' to learn to play the violin. Thanks to Shinichi Suzuki and other music teachers, thousands of ordinary children do it every year. All they need is ten fingers, a perception of musical pitch and the mysterious delight in melody and rhythm which almost all children are born with worldwide. Music, for all its artificial elaborateness in pieces like the Bach concerto, is basically natural. Most of the chldren give up the violin after a while, but the basics of music that they have acquired on the way stay with them for life. Some of them persist, however; and a select few who really are exceptionally gifted reach the level of the Brussels soloist and we class them as geniuses.

Translating still awaits its Suzuki. But we know, especially from the studies of child language brokers, that child natural translators abound. All they need is to be bilingual. Yet the example of music tells us that if there are so many child translators who are not exceptionally gifted, then there should be a select few geniuses at the top of the pyramid who are, because it's a hierarchy to which all natural abilities conform. Can we find them?

At that point I had an idea for a first step. Here it is.

.........................Preliminary Announcement.....................

2015 Translatology Competition for Child Translators
-------------------------under 12 years old----------------------

First prize 400 euro
Second prize 200 euro
Third prize 100 euro

Language combination for 2015: Spanish to English
Other combinations in future years

The terms and texts of the competition will be announced in January.


Now nothing remains for 2014 but to wish my 195 Followers and all my other readers

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Young Interpreters: a Terminology Proposal

The December issue of Young Interpreters Newsletter has arrived with its usual roundup of good news from the schools that are members of the Young Interpreters Scheme (YI). YI, in case you don't already know, is a unique organisation sponsored by a British education authority for encouraging bilingual pupils to use their interpreting ability to help fellow students, school staff and other less advantaged members of their communities. Their ability, at least when they start, is largely natural; and it's important to note that they are not 'exceptionally gifted' children. Bilingualism and the translation ability that goes with it are already a fact of everyday life in multicultural Britain. (For more about YI, enter yi in the Search box on the right.)

More important, though, than the current news is the link in the middle of the Newsletter to YI's general list of does and don'ts for using children. The topic has been touched on before on this blog but the YI treatment is more complete and has official backing.

What the YI interpreters do is a form of language brokering. I've never liked the term language broker, because of its commercial connotation (as in insurance broker). But it's been in use now for at least 20 years, so we're stuck with it. However, it became apparent some time ago that it was inadequate with respect to the age of the interpreters. The people who coined it meant it to apply to children. Yet the functions of language broker don't end at such an early age. A great deal of it is done by adults for their families and acquaintances – and even for their children. A child who accompanies an adult family member to the doctor's to interpret is a language broker, but so is an adult who accompanies his or her child. So it has become customary in recent years to qualify the term in order to preserve the original intent, and to speak of child language brokers.

So far so good. But child is still a vague age indicator and certainly doesn't cover all the YI interpreters, the older ones of whom – the ones in the secondary schools – could reasonably object to being called children. It's in order to be more precise therefore, though not overly so, that I propose the following scale of terms. They can be applied not only to language brokers but to child translators in general.

1. Infant translators / language brokers. Under five years old. There are certainly children who can do some translating at that age, but language brokering is unlikely. This isn't because of language but because of the knowledge of the world around that language brokers need. Nevertheless, we should allow for it.

2. Child translators / language brokers. From five to ten years old. This corresponds to the period of primary education in most education systems.

3. Adolescent (or ado-) translators / language brokers. From 11 to 18, corresponding to secondary education.

4. Adult translators / language brokers. 18 and over. This takes us beyond the originally intended scope of language broker, but it must, for the reason given above, be allowed for.

So now what to do do about the YI interpreters, whose ages span both 2 and 3 above? We might make up a compound like child and adolescent translators. But that's a mouthful. Instead I propose to take advantage of the correspondences with the school systems and speak of

5. School-age translators / language brokers, ie, from five to 17 years old, to cover both categories.

We'll see if it catches on.

Hampshire Count Council, EMTAS. Young Interpreters Newsletter, December 2014. To receive or contribute, contact Astrid Dinneen at astrid.dinneen@hants.gov.uk.

Lucy Tse (University of Southern California). Language brokering among Latino adolescents…. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 1995.

J. McQuillan and L. Tse. Child language brokering in linguistic minority communities. Language and Education, 1995.

Infant translators was used as early as 1978 by Harris and Sherwood in Translating as an innate skill, which is avaialable on academia.edu.

School age language brokering has been used, but only with limiting qualifiers such as high school age language brokers, as in:

Sarah Louise Telford. Language Brokering Among Latino Middle School Students…, PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 2010, which also uses adult language brokering.

The same is true of school age translating.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yet Another Bilingual Advantage

Ever since the explosive studies by Wallace Lambert and his collaborators at Montreal's McGill University in the 1960s, the tide has been turning in favour of bilingual education from childhood. (For an obit of Lambert, enter lambert in the Search box on the right.) Where I live, the discussion is no longer about whether children should learn two languages (half of them are Natural Bilinguals anyway in Spanish and Valencian) but whether they should be taught a third or even a fourth. It's true that in an officially bilingual jurisdiction like Canada or the Valencian Community we need to be on guard against research that fits too neatly into the current social and political agenda, but even so the trend is IMHO convincing. Bilingalism means more language and cultural flexibility, etc. From this year foreign languages are part of the primary school curriculum even in recalcitrant Britain.

Now comes a new twist.
"Researchers have found that bilingual children are able to concentrate better in the busy classroom environment than their monolingual peers. The research from Anglia Ruskin University [in the UK] found that 7- to 10-year olds who speak only one language were more negatively affected bu noise and were less able to keep their attention on a task when there other noises nearby. Published in Bilingualism, Language and Cognition, the study shows that the heightened performance of bilingual children is dependent on how well they know the two languages."

The Linguist, December 2014/January 2015, p. 5.

E. Peale and W. E. Lambert. The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs, General and Applied, vol. 76, no. 27, pp. 1-23. 1962.

Amanda Barton. Primary problem: how is compulsory language education shaping up on the ground? The Linguist, December 2014/January 2015, pp. 20-21.

Anglia Ruskin University. It sprang from a school of art founded at Cambridge by the 19th-century artist and critic John Ruskin.