How can interpretation promote the participation and learning of non-native English speaking children in CISV Villages

Anybody who has ever experienced it knows, with regard to language and communication, a CISV Village is a most crazy, exceptional, beautiful and challenging affair. Nearly 50 11-year olds from 12 countries, most of them non-native English speakers, play and learn together over four weeks, facilitated by around 20 adults from as many countries. A team of researchers from Italy, led by Professor Claudio Baraldi, has looked closely at the effects of translation and interpretation by adults in CISV villages. Does translation influence children’s learning? Does translation affect children’s opportunities to get actively involved in the Village?

This research is based on fieldwork in 10 Villages with a focus on the interactions involving adults and children, and translation between English and Italian language. Detailed transcripts of what children and adults said, and how, form the basis of the fascinating research findings presented here.

Baraldi et al. find that translations by adults do have a variety of important effects on the social and educational nature of a CISV Village. This happens through a number of mechanisms; including summarising and weighing the importance of what was said originally, and through the double role of adults as interpreters as well as educators. Adults’ role as interpreters is crucial because as interpreters they not only translate between languages literally but also create meaning actively.

In summary, this research brings to light the extraordinary social and linguistic complexity of communication amongst children and adults in Villages. It shows that adults, especially leaders, are gatekeepers who facilitate and enable, but can also block, the involvement, contributions, and learning of children in CISV Villages. The key recommendation is that, in order to be effective interpreters, adults should refrain from pursuing pre-established educational goals, support children’s understanding in their own language, and summarise in a way that remains true to the intention of promoting children’s active  participation in the activities.

Read the full report here.