Bilingual tricksters: Conflicting perceptions of bilingualism in the informal labor economy

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Language & Communication, ISSN: 0271-5309, Vol: 58, Page: 107-117

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Elise M. DuBord
Elsevier BV
Psychology; Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences; Bilingualism; Day laborers; Language brokers; Borderlands; Tricksters
article description
This article explores the value of bilingualism in the informal labor economy by analyzing how Latin American immigrants in the United States draw on their language abilities when asserting their socioeconomic positionality as workers. Bilingual day laborers in the U.S.-Mexico border region cultivate bilingual identities through their work as language brokers in ways that augment their social status and facilitate employment. Yet, despite the perceived advantages of bilingualism for day laborers, their monolingual Spanish-speaking peers often evaluate bilinguals unfavorably—as tricksters—because of their ability to communicate in Spanish and English. Ultimately, by exposing the benefits and burdens of bilingualism for day laborers in the border region, this article describes the intersection of the social and economic contours of language contact.