Little bangladesh a language landscape
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‘Little Bangladesh’: A Language Landscape. Subi Subhan. Locale. (Source: Foreign-born population in several major metropolitan cities

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‘Little Bangladesh’: A Language Landscape

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Little bangladesh a language landscape

‘Little Bangladesh’: A Language Landscape

Subi Subhan



Little bangladesh a language landscape

  • (Source:

Little bangladesh a language landscape

Foreign-born population in several major metropolitan cities

Sources: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001; U.S., Census Bureau, 2000 (Ryerson University, 2004)

Little bangladesh a language landscape

Top Spoken Languages of the World: Number of Native SpeakersRank Order Language Number of speakers1Mandarin Chinese885,000,0002Spanish 332,000,000 3 English 322,000,000 4 Bengali (Bangla) 189,000,000 5 Hindi 182,000,000 6 Portuguese 170,000,000 6 Russian 170,000,000 8 Japanese125,000,000______________________________________________________________________

Demographics of Bangla Speakers

Area Number of Speaks Only Speaks Mostly Speaks Equally Speaks Regularly Speaks

Bangla Bangla Bangla Bangla Bangla and English Bangla

___ Speakers at home at home at home at home at home

Toronto 18,470 15,785 6,050 5,640 1,500 2,595

Canada 34,650 29,705 12,840 9,615 2,780 4,470

Purpose of the study

Purpose of the Study

  • To surface the emic story of the Bangladeshi immigrants in Toronto as they transmit their language and the values that accompany language, to the next generation.

  • To surface the issues of language maintenance/attrition particular to this group.

  • To describe the emerging pattern of practices and manifest attitudes regarding first language maintenance/attrition in the daily lives of these families living in the Toronto area.


Flowchart of the research design

Flowchart of the Research Design_________________________________

Naturalistic Exploratory Inquiry

Data Collection: Ethnographic Fieldwork

Data collection:

Historical interviews and sources

Analysis and reporting:


Fieldwork Observation

Conversational interviews

Research questions

Research questions:

1.To what extent is language maintenance noticeable within the families of Bangladeshi immigrants in Toronto?

2.To what extent and in what ways is the heritage language present and used in the context of the families?

3.What are the ranges of relationships that Bangladeshi immigrant families in Toronto have with outside contexts and resources with regards to their heritage language?

4a.In what ways do parents or adults in the family convey values and attitudes about heritage language to their children?

4b.How much importance do parents attach to the transmission of heritage language?



  • Researcher

  • Three Families – based on convenience and availability

  • Resource people – knowledgeable members of the population under study or associated people



  • Researcher

  • Ethnographic Fieldwork

    • Observation notes

    • Conversational interviews

  • Historical research methods

    • Documents reviews

    • Historical interviews



  • Ethnographic methods

  • Historical methods


    Data Collection

  • Three years of rapport building - contributing to background information

  • One full cycle of observation supplemented by a few rapid assessment tools

  • Three families observed for three to four days each

  • Note writing in between

  • Informal conversations

  • Reviewing documents

  • Mostly private spaces - home

  • Families followed outside to public spaces – streets, stores, and religious, cultural and social congregations

  • Resource people interviewed privately face-to-face and over the phone



  • Qualitative methods – coding and seeking the pattern

  • Using ‘N-6’ and ‘manually’

  • Bracketing interview

  • Triangulation

    • Source

    • Data

    • Theory

  • Member checking

  • Guest analyst



  • ‘Potraiture’

    • A thick description of the background and of the lives of the subjects observed

    • “[I]ntends to address wider, more eclectic audiences… beyond academy’s inner circle, [and] to speak in a language that is not coded or exclusive” (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997, p.10)



The Emergent Pattern

  • Three important aspects of the emergent pattern:

    • Children’s role and preferences

    • Parents’ priorities

    • Parents’ lack of awareness about or negligence of language education.

Children s role and preferences

Children’s Role and Preferences

  • Seen but rarely heard

  • Functional interaction only

  • Language use habits and communication

  • Children’s role in language use and communication

Parents priorities

Parents’ Priorities

  • Adults’ Role and Attitude Regarding Children

    • Health

    • Companionship and entertainment

    • Children’s choice

Parents priorities1

Parents’ Priorities

  • Other Priorities

    • Survival and adjustment

    • Lack of life-skills

    • Information sharing

    • Networking

    • Socialization and preoccupation with life and family left behind

    • ‘Fitting in’ and identity crisis

    • Importance of food

    • Time spent on food

Non prioritized status of heritage language education and maintenance

Non-prioritized Status of Heritage Language Education and Maintenance

  • Religious education

  • English education or learning English

  • Tutoring and other elements

  • Lack of awareness and negligence of heritage language

Relationships with outside contexts

Relationships with outside contexts

  • Negative

    • Religious observance

    • Cultural shows

    • Public libraries

    • Bookstores

    • Media stores

    • TDSB language programs

    • University of Toronto

  • Positive

    • Private institutions for cultural instruction

    • Social visits

    • Ethnic enclaves (although not exclusively ethnic)

Confusing cultural values

Confusing Cultural Values

Parents views towards transmission of language

Parents’ views towards transmission of language

  • Very little effort noticed among the parents

  • The general assumption – automatic transmission

  • Most parents do not seem to notice the lack of use by children

  • Acceptance - “Oh well, after all this is Canada, what should we expect?”

  • Assumption - only English is needed to be successful

  • Giving excuses and avoiding or postponing the issue of heritage literacy education

  • Parents find it challenging to find time, means, & context to transmit

  • Children immigrated older also slack use and practice – parents lack awareness and knowledge

  • Efforts of a few parents - not strong enough for whole group to maintain heritage language

Follow up

Follow up

  • Less visibility of children

  • Blending outfits and Westernization

  • More cultural groups and performances – but only adults are involved

  • Complete loss of language habits in the cohort of children

  • Disappearance of the audiovisual outlets

  • Reduction of number of newspapers

  • Conversion of bookstores

  • Rise of the internet

  • Change in language program enrollment – a positive trend?

  • Continued lack of funding in needed areas

  • Increased number of businesses



  • Families with children generally show definite signs of language attrition

  • Only a handful of such families show evidence making attempts to maintain heritage language

  • Few families take Bangla school seriously

  • Some others are known of trying to teach their children Bangla literacy at home

  • A few others consciously enforce speaking Bangla at home, reportedly

  • Encouraging children to perform in cultural activities - negligible portion of the population

  • Language transmission generally neglected at younger age or is assumed to be automatic process

  • Primary and junior age children – more susceptible to attrition

Thank you

Thank you!

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