Friday, May 18, 2012

Linguistic Landscape Or Cultural Quagmire?

Do business signs in another language cause you unease?
There's a claim immigrant businessmen, using signs in their own language, are creating 'ethnic precincts'. Massey University researchers Robin Peace and Ian Goodwin studied 500 photos from around Auckland (incl. Northcote, Dominion Road, Botany, the CBD and Papatoetoe): many used language other than English. They say they can cause annoyance and repugnance to English-speaking NZers.
An poll seems to back the research. 39% of people think all immigrants should use English on their business signs; a further 40% say English translations should be offered beside ethnic scripts; 21% say the signs should be accepted, as NZ is a diverse society.
Mt Roskill Business Assn prez Richard Prakash says while the signs add character to an area, this is New Zealand. He says single-language signs are designed to attract one culture to a shop, but they should be in English too.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown feels the signs add to the city's "unique character": "I'm not concerned by an increase of signs in different languages if business owners think it's appropriate for their customers, as long as they don't contravene any laws." Errrrrr, Lenny...your council has no regulations about languages used on signs!
It's an interesting issue, and covers many languages such as Samoan, Tongan, Afrikaans - not just Asian. However some in the Asian community know no other language than an Asian one (and it must be a relief for new arrivals to see theirs on signs). Of course, dried rat penises in an Asian store are highly unlikely to be bought by Europeans. But conversely, the opportunity to do so should be facilitated by some English signage. Or are Aucklanders simply racially intolerant?
Ahhhh, but then there're tales of migrants "no speekee eengleesh"... until $$$ are discussed!!!

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