In this paper we question key terms which appear frequently in discussions of language teaching and learning: ‘language’ and ‘heritage’. The paper draws on empirical data from one of four linked case studies in a larger project funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), ‘Investigating Multilingualism in Complementary Schools in Four Communities’ (RES-000-23-1180). In our analysis we argue that the relationships between ‘language’ and ‘heritage’, far from being straightforward, are complex in the way they play out in classroom interactions. The data raise a number of questions in our attempts to understand how the linguistic practices of students and teachers in Bengali schools are used to negotiate young people’s multilingual and multicultural identities. First, participants articulate attitudes and values which raise questions about what constitutes ‘language’. Second, participants express views and attitudes, and perform interactional practices, which raise questions about what constitutes ‘heritage’. Our analysis finds that multilingual young people in complementary school classrooms use linguistic resources in sophisticated and creative ways to negotiate subject positions which appear to contest and subvert schools’ attempts to impose upon them ‘heritage’ identities (Creese, A., A. Bhatt, N. Bhojani, and P. Martin. 2006. ‘Multicultural, heritage and learner identities in complementary schools,’ Language and Education 20/1: 23–44).
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