• Alysa Salzberg

When children are interpreters

There’s been a lot of press coverage of translators and interpreters during the coronavirus pandemic. But one group that’s overlooked, even in times when all is (relatively) well, are children who interpret and translate for their families.


The Tampa Bay Times recently published a fascinating profile of several of these kids. Ranging from elementary school- to college -age, these children come from families where parents and grandparents who immigrated to America are focused on work or lack resources to help them learn English. Their children interpret for them in situations like medical visits and communicating with siblings’ teachers.


They also translate important information. This includes, in recent months, information about coronavirus.


It may seem like an unfair burden to make these children, who all go to school or work, interpret for others without compensation. But as the article points out, although there is pressure, children who interpret for their families often feel a sense of pride and importance.


Some of them are even inspired by their roles. For instance, translating for her family and, essentially, localizing information, is part of what’s made twelve-year-old Lianet to want to

become a teacher.


Read on to learn more about kids who interpret for their families, as well as some insights into why some parents aren’t able to learn the native language.


Lianet Ramírez and her family.

Image source




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