'Because tumi Bangali': Inventing and disinventing the national in multilingual communities in the UK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this article, we present an analysis of some of the voices we heard as we conducted linguistic ethnographic research in eight complementary ( also known as 'community language', 'supplementary', 'heritage language') schools in four British cities. These were the voices of people engaged in teaching and learning languages, including Bengali, Cantonese, Gujarati, Mandarin and Turkish. The content of the language classes frequently reflected the schools' rationale of teaching students the 'nationalism of the homeland' as well as teaching the heritage language. They did this through rehearsing historical events in the collective memory of the country of origin, retelling myths and folk stories associated with the homeland, discussing national symbols, and making explicit links between learning the standard language of the home country and national identity. The students, almost all of whom were born and raised in the UK, at times accepted their teachers' positioning of them as (e.g.) 'Chinese' or 'Turkish', but at other times contested the notion of national belonging and affiliation to the country of origin.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-476
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • language education, identities, affiliation, complementary schools, nationalism, heritage, multilingualism