This article investigates the ways in which children from immigrant backgrounds view the place of ‘other’ languages in primary schools in France and England. This article draws on findings from a cross-national ethnographic study, which investigated the experiences of 10- and 11-year-old children of immigrants in two primary schools, one in France and one in England. It shows how, in both schools, children had to negotiate the symbolic domination of a single legitimate language and viewed their other languages as inferior, undesirable or illicit. Building on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, findings in this paper contribute insights into the complex debates around language diversity, multilingualism and intercultural communication in schools in France and England.