From MANOS: Gina and David as Language Brokers

Gina’s nine-year-old brother David, for example, was familiar with informal registers of Spanish and English—in different contexts he referred to me as chavo (guy), caballero (gentleman), dude, and sir. Mentoring with MANOS youth, I have learned that for children, linguistic exchanges in everyday practice in all families move between formal and informal varieties of languages. Conceived in this way, we all broker formal and informal registers and literacies in our social encounters. How we exchange communication in the linguistic marketplace depends on the different rhetorical configurations of audiences and situations, or contexts. What we understand and acknowledge as the formal varieties of languages are institutionalized, standardized, and legitimated into positions of authority through schooling (Bourdieu and Passeron; Labov; Gee; Heath), and the informal localized varieties of language, though not published or publicly presented, are conducted with practical intentions. For bilinguals, brokering between formalities in different languages is a complex skill that develops through years of social practice, and requires schooling both at school and in everyday life in general.