Language and Identity in Bilingual Students and Former Foreign Students

Author: Katharina Heiber (Teaching Assistant at Ankara University, Turkey)
Speaker: Katharina Heiber
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2020 General Session


Migration and remigration between Germany and Turkey have shaped numerous transcultural spaces, one of them being most German Language Departments in Turkish Universities: There is teaching staff and students born and raised in Germany, as members of the german-turkish community with bilingual language competencies, and also students and teachers having learned German as a foreign language in Turkey (Özyer 2013). The participation of Turkey in the ERASMUS program provides an opportunity to all of them to go to a German speaking country and experience the culture there as a foreign student. Undoubtedly, this experience will differ a lot from the one as a member of a migrant minority.

The focus of the research project will be the interplay of biography and language identity, comparing bilingual students and former Erasmus students (Brubaker/Cooper 2000) (Thurmair/Oppenrieder 2003). Which role do the spoken languages play in the identity of the students? How is identity influenced by biographical experience, e.g. by living in Germany or Turkey, returning there or suffering discrimination? Is it possible to find common narratives or concepts based on biographical experience? Due to the expected variety in these experiences between and within the groups, e.g. regional differences, language attainment, educational attainment, the last question might not be confirmed.

To examine these questions, a mixed method design will be applied to a sample of 10 students: 5 bilingual students and 5 former Erasmus students, all of them living in Turkey. The language portrait (German: Sprachenportrait) developed by Gogolin and Neumann (1991) and modified by Krumm (2010) presents a key tool to understand the roles attributed to a language by the individual. Originally used in the classroom setting, it has also been applied to university contexts. Additionally, semi-structured biographical interviews will be conducted.


Brubaker, R.; Cooper, F. (2000) Beyond Identity. Theory and Society 29 (1), 1 – 47.

Gogolin, I./Neumann, U. (1991): Sprachliches Handeln in der Grundschule. In: Die Grundschulzeitschrift, H. 43, 6-13.
Krumm, Hans-Jürgen (2010): Mehrsprachigkeit in Sprachenportraits und Sprachenbiographien von Migrantinnen und Migranten. AkDaF Rundbrief 61.
Özyer, N. (2013). Germanistik in der Türkei: Vom Aussterben bedroht?. Diyalog Interkulturelle Zeitschrift Für Germanistik 1 (1), 1-6.
Thurmair, Maria; Oppenrieder, Wilheln (2003): Sprachidentität im Kontext von Mehrsprachigkeit. In: Nina Janich; Christiane Thim-Mabrey (ed.): Sprachidentität – Identität durch Sprache. Tübingen: Narr, 39–60.

Keywords: Bilingualism, Erasmus, student exchange, language identity, discrimination, lingualism, Transculture, migration, remigration