This study explores how a group of second generation Asians (SGA) understood and defined language, focusing upon the role they perceived language to have played in their identity. Twelve SGA were interviewed and the data were subjected to qualitative thematic analysis. Four superordinate themes are reported, entitled ‘Mother tongue and self’, ‘A sense of ownership and affiliation’, ‘Negotiating linguistic identities in social space’ and ‘The quest for a positive linguistic identity’. Participants generally expressed a desire to maintain continuity of self‐definition as Asian, primarily through the maintenance of the heritage language (HL). An imperfect knowledge of the HL was said to have a negative impact upon psychological well‐being. There were ambivalent responses to the perception of language norms, and various strategies were reported for dealing with dilemmatic situations and identity threat arising from bilingualism. Recommendations are offered for interventions that might aid the ‘management’ of bilingualism among SGA.