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Challenging Language in the Diaspora

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 16:52 authored by Benjamin Zeitlyn
Diaspora groups inevitably learn new languages and are often bilingual to varying degrees. Bangladeshis in Britain speak variants of Bangla, the most common being Sylheti. Many, mainly older people or those brought up in Bangladesh speak and understand standard or 'shuddho' Bangla. Most speak English, and those brought up and educated in Britain speak it as their first language. Many Bangladeshi children in Britain also learn Arabic, as part of a Qur'anic education, usually after school or at the weekends. Here I wish to discuss the use of Bangla among British Bangladeshi families living in London and particularly its role and meaning compared to the Bangla dialect Sylheti, English and Arabic. My research into transnational Bangladeshi childhoods in London is part of an AHRC funded project at the University of Sussex. The research took place in Islington, a borough of London not usually associated with Bangladeshis, where a relatively small number of Bangladeshis live. Nearby Tower Hamlets where many more Bangladeshis live, is more commonly associated with Bangladeshis in Britain. By comparing the language practices and attitudes to languages of my respondents with evidence from Bangladesh and Tower Hamlets it is possible to see that Sylheti speakers in London have different practices and attitudes to those in Bangladesh, that people in Islington may use Bangla differently than those in Tower Hamlets, and that these differences may become greater among young second and third generation Bangladeshis in Britain.


Publication status

  • Published


Bangla Journal


AHRC: Diasporas, Migration and Identities





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  • Education Publications

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