US: Children give voice to immigrant parents

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Oct 2 12:17:07 UTC 2008

 Forwarded  From:   edling at

Chicago Tribune

Children give voice to immigrant parents

For immigrant families, the traditional roles of parents and children often
flip, with children serving as guides to a foreign culture and language.
They accompany parents to the doctor to describe a sickness or to the bank
to fill out mortgage applications.

Critics long have said it's dangerous and unfair to lay the burdens of
adulthood on children, but a growing body of research argues these young
interpreters demonstrate memory and analytical abilities similar to those of
students seen as gifted.

"You're challenged to balance out between two languages, back and forth,"
said Kevin Dao, 15, a Vietnamese speaker who has translated everything from
prescriptions to Social Security documents for his mother. "It definitely
makes you smarter."

Full story:,0,548726.story


Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at

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