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Fellows, M F, Phua, F T T and Tutt, D E (2023) Building bridges: the bilingual language work of migrant construction workers. Construction Management and Economics, 41(02), 153–71.

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: Migrant workers; construction; translanguaging; communication; informal interpreter;
  • ISBN/ISSN: 0144-6193
  • URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/01446193.2022.2151022
  • Abstract:
    The construction industry (CI) employs significant numbers of migrant workers, making construction sites multilingual spaces. Workers who do not share a common language work alongside each other, posing issues for safety, integration and productivity. Methods used to overcome these language barriers include the use of bilingual workers as informal interpreters. The prevalence and importance of informal interpreters is recognized in the literature. However, their language work is not well understood, and hence, the research question addressed is: what language work do the informal interpreters do and how? This study uses the theoretical lens of translanguaging to conceptualize communication onsite between speakers of different named languages, emphasizing the flexible and multimodal nature of language in use. An ethnographic approach is adopted, comprising 40 international informal interviews, and observational field notes and material data from the UK. The language work of the informal interpreters is explored through this data and theoretical lens; their language tasks and the nature of their language work is identified, including the use of visuals, gesture, and technology. Far from being straightforward and predictable, the findings show that the scope of their language work varies considerably. In this informal language work, the boundaries between languages and of what constitutes interpretation are blurred. A novel aspect of language work emerges from the data, showing that this often includes mediation. This study clarifies understandings of communication and informal interpretation on multilingual construction sites and these findings could contribute to future best practice on the use of bilingual workers as informal interpreters.

Galea, N, Powell, A and Salignac, F (2023) The role of homosociality in maintaining men’s powerfulness in construction companies. Construction Management and Economics, 41(02), 172–82.

Grant, A and Ries, R (2013) Impact of building service life models on life cycle assessment. Building Research & Information, 41(02), 168-86.

Hegarty, T, Wright, S, Wordsworth, R and Lord, B (2023) Deferential Tailoring: a grounded theory of how women respond and adapt to social conditions and gender-related challenges in the New Zealand construction industry. Construction Management and Economics, 41(02), 138–52.

Holmes, S H and Reinhart, C F (2013) Assessing future climate change and energy price scenarios: institutional building investment. Building Research & Information, 41(02), 209-22.

Hughes, M, Palmer, J, Cheng, V and Shipworth, D (2013) Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis of England's housing energy model. Building Research & Information, 41(02), 156-67.

Liu, Q, Feng, Y, London, K and Zhang, P (2023) Influence of personal characteristics and environmental stressors on mental health for multicultural construction workplaces in Australia. Construction Management and Economics, 41(02), 116–37.

Newaz, M T, Ershadi, M, Jefferies, M, Pillay, M and Davis, P (2023) A systematic review of contemporary safety management research: a multi-level approach to identifying trending domains in the construction industry. Construction Management and Economics, 41(02), 97–115.

Rehm, M and Ade, R (2013) Construction costs comparison between ‘green’ and conventional office buildings. Building Research & Information, 41(02), 198-208.

Schweber, L (2013) The effect of BREEAM on clients and construction professionals. Building Research & Information, 41(02), 129-45.

Toller, S, Carlsson, A, Wadeskog, A, Miliutenko, S and Finnveden, G (2013) Indicators for environmental monitoring of the Swedish building and real estate management sector. Building Research & Information, 41(02), 146-55.

Wright, G B and Jack, L B (2013) Property-level stormwater drainage systems: integrated flow simulation and whole-life costs. Building Research & Information, 41(02), 223-36.