Language, Identity, and Nepali Youth in Hong Kong
The Nepali community in Hong Kong is recognized as one of the major ethnic groups within the broader ‘South Asian’ identity. The data show that the total population of Nepali is around forty thousand, most of them are the descents of the Gurkha soldiers. Officially recognized as ‘ethnic minorities’, Nepalis in Hong Kong, as shown by previous studies, face a wide range of challenges in the city’s globalized landscape (Ale, 2013). Such challenges include linguistic, sociocultural, and economic (Thapa & Adamson, 2018). Although previous studies have focused on the issues of discriminations and language barriers of the Nepali community in general (Erni & Leung, 2014), little attention has been given to the identity construction of youth in Hong Kong’s multilingualism context. In this paper, I analyze ‘entangled identities’ (Ichijo & Spohn, 2005) that Nepali youth construct as they live in the local community where Cantonese and English are dominantly used across spaces. I focus on how Nepali youth position their multiple identities, particularly heritage identities, and analyse their sense of belonging in Hong Kong. Drawing on Cook’s (2018) ‘imagined future’, I also discuss how Nepali youth develop the future imaginaries about their identities in Hong Kong. The data for this study are drawn from an ongoing narrative study of multilingualism and identities of Nepali youth in Hong Kong. In this paper, I analyze the narratives of three youth, who were born and raised in Hong Kong, to present how the identities and imagined future of Nepali youth are shaped by Cantonese-English dominance. The narratives are collected by interviewing the youth about their past, present and the future of living in Hong Kong. The study shows that the youth construct ‘in-between-ness’ as they continue to speak Nepali, English and Cantonese across different spaces. However, these youth strongly see their future as ‘Nepali’, not as ‘a local Hongkonger’ because of language and cultural problems.
Ale, S. (2013). Assessing the situation of Nepalese community in Hong Kong. Retrieved from City University of Hong Kong, CityU Institutional Repository.
Cook, J. (2017). Imagined futures: Hope, risk and uncertainty. Palgrave Macmillan.
Erni, J. N., & Leung, L. Y. M. (2014). Understanding South Asian minorities in Hong Kong. Hong Kong University Press.
Spohn, W. & Ichijo, A (2005). Entangled identities: nations and Europe. Ashgate. Thapa, C. B., & Adamson, B. (2018). Ethnicity, language-in-education policy and linguistic discrimination: Perspectives of Nepali students in Hong Kong. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural development, 39(4), 329-340.