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The 5-year-old translator: the blessing of serving Third Culture Kids

Through a Serve Asia short-term mission placement at our International Centre in Singapore, Sofie saw the blessings of being a Third Culture Kid in new ways:

The more I work with Third Culture Kids (TCKs), the more I learn just how special God has made them. I am a TCK myself; grew up in East Asia for 10 years and then moved to Scotland for high school.

TCKs stands for Third Culture Kids, children who spend a lot of their childhood outside their passport country or parents’ culture and are influenced by that culture and the culture of the place they’re living in; so there’s a unique third culture they inhabit.

I never really thought what a blessing it is to be a TCK. However after my Serve Asia placement this summer, I realised what a blessing it is to be a TCK. As some people say, we are cultural chameleons. This summer I had the pleasure of looking after TCKs in Singapore, serving at KidZone which is the kids programme during the Orientation Course. The Orientation Course is a three-week long training course for all new OMF missionaries to attend, preparing them to go out equipped and ready for serving cross-culturally. I got to look after the 3-5 years olds and there were four kids (two sets of siblings) which was so lovely but sometimes there was a language barrier.

The other teacher, who was Singaporean, and I were looking after kids from two Dutch families. One family had already been serving out in Southeast Asia for a few years already so could speak Chinese and English pretty well but the other family had come straight from the Netherlands so the kids could only speak Dutch which we could not. So how were we to communicate with all these kids?

Well, one of the kids who had already been living in Southeast Asia was able to be our translator! She was able to speak and understand the other two kids in Dutch and translate from Dutch to Chinese (which the other teacher and I could speak). We found it quite amusing that this 5-year-old girl became our wee translator to help us communicate with the Dutch kids. Before KidZone had started, I assumed I would be speaking English at KidZone but we actually ended up communicating more in Chinese (which was great for improving my Chinese).

After doing a KidZone for a month, I was blown away by the fact that TCKs are such hidden treasures. We don’t realise what a blessing it is to grow up in multiple places and the skills and experiences that come with that. I pray that more people would have a passion for serving TCKs and that they would see that these kids have amazing stories to tell and amazing futures ahead of them.

Serve Asia Worker

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