Council wants 'English first' policy on shop signs – what does it mean for multicultural Australia?

  • Written by Alice Chik, Senior Lecturer in Literacy, Macquarie University

An inner-Sydney council proposal to regulate the language of shop signs has significant implications for multicultural policy. Strathfield City Council recently voted for a motion that states:

All signage is to be displayed in the English language, with a direct or near direct translation into another language using smaller letters or character … [which] must not exceed more than 30% of the overall size of the English language text.

The proposal raises two important questions. Is English the “official language” of Australia? And what is the status of community languages other than English?

Read more: Linguistic paranoia – why is Australia so afraid of languages?

English is not the official language

English is sometimes described as the “national”, “main” or “common” language, and as a “tool for integration”. But Australia has no policy designating English as an official language.

Australia’s multicultural policy also has surprisingly little to say about languages. There is no official protection for languages other than English.

Nevertheless, policy supports community language maintenance and education. In New South Wales, state multicultural legislation states two principles:

  • individuals and communities are “free to profess, practise and maintain their own linguistic, religious and ancestral heritage”
  • all institutions should “recognise the linguistic and cultural assets in the population of New South Wales as a valuable resource and promote this resource to maximise the development of the State”.

How does regulating signs live up to these principles?

Mandating English signage and allowing limited translation amounts to a de facto policy of English as an official language. It signals, in effect, an attitude of multicultural tolerance, not a policy of active multiculturalism.

The Strathfield proposal has attracted the interest of some mainstream media and the local English and community language press. However, media reports have muddied the waters by using the term “foreign” languages. Critical comments on social media have questioned whether the policy would ban established English words like “pizza” and “kebab”.

Such reports and comments highlight the difficulty of regulating use of languages on signs. They also miss the underlying issue of the right to use languages other than English in Australia’s multilingual communities.

Read more: Could you pass the proposed English test for Australian citizenship?

The 2016 Australian Census shows that more than 300 languages are spoken in Australia. In Sydney, 35.8% of people speak a language other than English at home. Languages are part of the social fabric of everyday life in the city.

In Strathfield itself, 68.5% of the households speak one of 58 languages in addition to English. The biggest language groups are Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Korean, Tamil and Arabic.

Council wants 'English first' policy on shop signs – what does it mean for multicultural Australia? This Strathfield shop uses four languages in its signs. Alice Chik

These are not “foreign” languages in Strathfield; they are the everyday languages of a multicultural community.

Our research in Strathfield’s commercial centres shows the proposal will mainly affect businesses that display Korean and Chinese script. Most of these businesses already have bilingual or trilingual signage. Signage for one barbecue shop shown here includes Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English.

Why does the language on signs matter?

Multilingual signage is important to the community for many reasons:

  • community languages convey the cultural identity of businesses and the authenticity of their products

  • community language signs are used for effective communication with speakers of those languages who often make up most of their customers

  • displaying community languages in public space is vital to the visibility of the groups that make up a multicultural community, and also a resource for community language learning and maintenance

  • the right to use a written language in public is equivalent to the right to use a spoken language.

When speakers of languages other than English are abused for speaking their languages in the street, we are quick to label this as “un-Australian”. Is it not equally “un-Australian” to regulate written language use?

The Strathfield proposal is open for public consultation until June 15. It might not ultimately be implemented. Yet it raises enduring questions about the place of language in Australia’s multicultural policy.

The Turnbull government’s first policy statement on multiculturalism, Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful, stresses that the economy is “strengthened by the skills, knowledge, linguistic capabilities, networks and creativity of our diverse workforce”. So, should local policies on signage in multicultural Australia be limited to tolerance of community languages within an English-dominant framework? Or should these policies recognise the right to expression and full participation for everyone?

Read more: The government's multicultural statement is bereft of new ideas or policies – why?

Authors: Alice Chik, Senior Lecturer in Literacy, Macquarie University

Read more http://theconversation.com/council-wants-english-first-policy-on-shop-signs-what-does-it-mean-for-multicultural-australia-95777

Australia Today

Capturing the shadow of Saturn's moon Titan from right here on Earth

David Coward, Associate professor, University of Western Australia

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captures Saturn's largest moon, Titan, passes in front of the planet and its rings.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science InstituteTitan is Saturn’s largest moon, and it is more like a planet than a moon in many respects.It has a thick atmosphere as well as wind, rivers, lake...

Read more

Battle scars reveal the life of 'Mephisto', a WW1 German tank from a century ago

Michael Westaway, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Griffith University

Mephisto after its capture in France by the Australian 26th Battalion.Queensland Museum, Author providedWhat can we possibly learn from the archaeological study of a World War I battle tank? Quite a lot, it turns out, when the attention is devoted to a rare German-built A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank kno...

Read more

are phone-obsessed teens at greater risk of ADHD?

Hannah Kirk, Research Fellow in Psychology, Monash University

Hyperactivity and inattentiveness doesn't mean you have ADHD.Ant RozetskyThis week, news outlets across the world reported a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) linking digital media exposure to reduced attention spans and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)...

Read more

Is the 'Zero Hour' youth climate march a turning point, or more of the same?

Marc Hudson, PhD Candidate, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester

This weekend, young climate activists will march through Washington DC’s National Mall. The rally, part of the Zero Hour movement, is another sign of the concern and dismay felt by young people after 30-plus years of prevarication and hesitation by their elders. Just as young Americans are rea...

Read more

Michelle Grattan on the Mayo byelection and crossbenchers in the parliament

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Centre Alliance candidate Rebekha Sharkie is polling strongly ahead of next weekend's byelection in the South Australian seat of Mayo.AAP/Roy VandervegtMichelle Grattan discusses the week in politics with Director of the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, Ma...

Read more

do neckties reduce blood supply to the brain?

Steve Kassem, Postdoctoral fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia

The fashion advice is generally to tighten ties so they're tight but not too tight.from www.shutterstock.comNews reports about a study from Germany may provide the ultimate excuse for men to dress more casually for work, finding neckties reduce blood supply to the brain.The study showed that wearing...

Read more

Holidays & Travel

Luxury Camping Adventures Around the World

Perhaps in direct response to the dominance of technology in the modern world, many travelers are feeling a strong draw towards nature. While some are able to fully embrace their...

Dredging works underway Plantation Island

Tourists and workers travelling to popular tourist destination Plantation Island, Fiji, are set to benefit from safer access when marine channel dredging is completed at the end of June 2018...

Top 5 Tips for Traveling With Dogs

Travelling with your dog can be thrilling, but sometimes it can turn into a real nuisance. Unless you know how to properly restrain the pooch, whether it’ll be able to...

Top Island Destinations for 2018

When we picture island destinations in our minds, we often imagine a tropical beach of white sand, a sun lounger laid out in the shade of a line of palm...

Why Car Rental Excess Insurance is a Smart Choice

Some car rental agencies include basic damage cover in the standard rental fee, with the option to add on liability reduction, or excess insurance. The addition of excess insurance normally...

More Than a Third of Australians Feel 'Too Busy' With Work to Take a Holiday

New research from InterContinental Hotel & Resorts has unveiled a large number of Australians (32 percent) are simply too busy with work to take some much-needed rest and relaxation. Almost...

Matakauri Lodge and Mahu Whenua Lodge

TRIED, TRUE AND SOMETHING NEW  A luxurious accommodation package at Matakauri Lodge + Mahu Whenua Lodge South Island, New Zealand  Available 1 May, 2018 - 30 September, 2018   Central Otago, NEW ZEALAND –...

Heaven is the Adelaide Hills

Looking for a quick getaway? Enjoy food and wine? How about stunning countryside? Look no further! The Adelaide Hills has something for everyone. We flew to Adelaide for a weekend-getaway...

5 Amazing Australian Holiday Ideas

Australia is one of the most fantastic places in the world to travel, explore, and witness all of the beauty that Mother Nature has to offer. With so much rich...

Fashion & Beauty

Groom To Do List

Sorry Aussie Men, you no longer just pay for the alcohol, flowers and marriage license. Times have certainly changed. Wedding Expert shares what Australian Grooms are now expected to do before...

Simple Secrets To A More Confident Smile

We all know just how important first impressions are. After a handshake, what’s one of the first things people will notice about you? It’s your smile. A friendly smile is...

Improve Your Body Confidence and Feel Great

No matter how good you feel about yourself, sometimes you just can’t help but see a few little flaws that seem gigantic to you and make you feel self-conscious. Whether...

First-Timer Tips For Your First Lip Filler Appointment

Getting injectable lip fillers can be a quick and effective way to plump up your smile with minimal drama. They’re a cost-effective and safe way to boost the natural shape...

The Most Common Skin Conditions and How to Deal with Them

We often underestimate the importance of our skin, but as the largest organ in our body, and our primary layer of defense, it is constantly affected by many environmental factors...

Beach Babe Basics: Everything You Need to Look Stylish at the Beach

Summer is right around the corner, and this year, we all should make the best of it. Right now, it is not just about looking stylish on the streets, it...

HEALTH

Eye Health Dos and Don'ts

Most people take their eyes for granted and spend little to no time thinking about their eye health until they notice something wrong. This leads to plenty of common and...

Non-invasive Cosmetic Treatments

In a world where everyone is chasing perfection, plastic surgeries have become more and more common to the point where it’s odd if you don’t get one during your life...

My Health Yoga

Carrie-Anne Fields of My Health Yoga has taken her Gold Coast yoga teacher training worldwide. She started her health business 20 years ago aged 22 and has grown into a...

Fit Body 101 - Increase Your Fitness Effectiveness

You have to find some space for physical exercise in your weekly schedule in order to live a good life. Embracing this way of life is very beneficial because it...

The World of Dentistry: 5 Most Common Dental Procedures in Australia

Are you dissatisfied with the state of your pearly whites? Do you often experience discomfort and pain while eating and drinking? Well, be sure that you’re not the only one...

How You Can Conquer Your Dental Anxiety

Does the thought of going to the dentist fill you with dread? Well, you will be pleased to know that you are not the only one. A large number of...

LIFE STYLE

Dog Flea Allergy

Severe itchy skin disease in dogs causes Flea bite hypersensitivity. The itch is as a result of an allergic reaction to the saliva of the flea which is injected into...

5 Ways to Turn Your Bedroom into a True Zen Retreat

The bedroom should be our little sanctuary where we come to relax after a long day of work. However, in order to be able to unwind all the accumulated stress...

Things to Consider when Deciding on your Wedding Flowers for the Big Day

Choosing the wedding flowers is a complicated process where you have to take into account many elements, from the wedding dress to the wedding theme. You can discover in this...

Renovating tips for your house

There are very few property owners who move into a house where they don’t want to make any changes. Alterations are almost inevitable every time you move-house, but alterations can...

Tips for Decluttering Your Yard

Decluttering probably sounds like a tedious job, but it’s essential if you want to have a nice, well-decorated backyard. Bad organization habits and hoarding can eventually lead to clutter, and...

Dry Carpet Cleaning Vs Steam Carpet Cleaning: Which one to Choose?

A clean carpet not only improve your interiors, increases your comfort around the office and home but also beneficial for your health. This is why it is necessary to choose...

FOOD & DINING

Morning greens: the breakfast skincare regime

It’s safe to assume that most Aussies fail to eat enough greens. Although this was momentarily resolved with the rise and popularity of the green juice movement, the lack of...

Best Hidden Gem Hong Kong Restaurants

You finally find yourself enjoying the endless beauties of China and this fascinating city. In a place with so much variety, all your senses will be wide awake, and your...

JOHNNY DI FRANCESCO NAMED OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR OF EAT STREET MELBOURNE

Johnny Di Francesco, world champion pizzaiolo and owner of Melbourne’s Gradi Group of restaurants, is excited to announce he has been named official ambassador for Eat Street Melbourne 2018. As Ambassador...

The best Mother's Day gift EVER!

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...

Sing for Your Supper at Chargrill Charlie’s

To celebrate the final curtain call of the Barden Bellas, Chargrill Charlie’s is giving you the chance to Sing for your Supper! Show off your best acapella vocals to win...

MAKE IT WINE TIME, ANY TIME

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...