Latin Americans in London
: language, integration and ethnic identity

  • Ana Granada

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis studies the links between language, migration and integration in the context of the 'new migrant' group of Latin Americans in London. It reviews the many ways in which language impacts the integration processes of migrants by influencing people's access to jobs, services, social contacts and information. By focusing on migrants' experiences this research also investigates the ways in which language and identity articulate, as well as the affective variables that are at play in the acquisition of the local language.
With a large sector trapped in a cycle of poor command of English and labour market disadvantage, many Latin Americans experience exclusion and poverty. In reaction to this, a sector of the community is campaigning for ethnic minority recognition. This work reviews the debates for recognition and the strategy of organising around ethnicity, paying special attention to the role language plays in the process. The study is based on over two and half years of qualitative research, which included interviews, surveys, and long-term participant observation within a community organisation and a recognition campaign. Its interdisciplinary perspective allows the recognition of both the intimate links between language and identity, as well as the social and structural forces that influence migrants' linguistic integration. It unveils the practical and symbolic value that the mother tongue has for Latin American migrants and provides a broader account of their experiences.
This research calls attention to the need for a more comprehensive approach to the study of language and migration in order to acknowledge the affective and social factors involved in the linguistic practices of migrants. By studying the community's struggles for recognition, this work evidences both the importance of visibility for minority groups in London and the intrinsic methodological limitations of monitoring through ethnic categorisation.
Date of Award7 Jul 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSteven J Garner (Supervisor) & Gargi Bhattacharyya (Supervisor)


  • new migrants in the UK
  • experiences of language barrier
  • language and disadvantage
  • ethnic identity and disadvantage

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