Mexican-origin circumstantial bilingual: the child, the parent, the advocate

Document
Description

In order to adapt to a new culture and new language, children of immigrant families are faced daily with the responsibility of being the intermediaries between the family and the

In order to adapt to a new culture and new language, children of immigrant families are faced daily with the responsibility of being the intermediaries between the family and the host culture through their language proficiency (Weisskirch & Alva, 2002). This thesis looks into the experiences of English-Spanish bilingual children as they bridge the gap between the family and the non-Spanish speaking community through their interpreting/translating skills. With an emphasis on children of Mexican-origin, the goal is to further understand and illuminate how these children manage this communication in an adult society, their feelings and thoughts about their experiences, and the child's perceptions about the influence that this experience may or may not have on their future. A sample of seventeen children agreed to participate in a semi-structured face-to-face interview to share their experiences. The data from these interviews were analyzed using a thematic analysis approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006). A priori themes of circumstantial bilingual and adaptive parentification were the initial focus of the research while being open to emerging themes. The children's accounts of their experiences indicated primarily that the Mexican-origin values of familism and respeto (respect) were a significant influence on them when they interpreted/translated for their family. With these traditional cultural values and norms as the groundwork, the sub-themes of normalcy and stress emerged as supportive elements of the circumstantial bilingual experience. Furthermore, the theme of adaptive parentification and the sub-themes of choice, expectation/responsibility to assist, and equality to parents offered further insight on how adaptive parentification can result as the roles of these children change. There was an emergent theme, identity negotiation, which increases our understanding of what the circumstantial bilingual child encounters as the attempt is made to negotiate his identity as an individual who has to mediate language between two opposing cultures. Due to the language brokering responsibility that are bestowed upon these children, it is concluded that communicative support by the parents is a necessary component of the parent-child relationship in order to nurture and develop these children as they negotiate and create their identity to become the successful leaders of tomorrow.