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

Simple Secrets To A More Confident Smile

News Company

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 a way of creating a friendly bond with people, letting them know you’re happy to be in their presence, and projecting a positive ...

Read more

FROM OUTCASTS TO ROCKSTARS - WHEN DID PSYCHICS BECOME SO COOL?

Ralph Tucker

With trust in organised religion and established authorities such as governments at all time low, more and more people are searching for answers from a spiritual means elevating psychics to an unprecedented level of popularity in recent years.   Rose Smith heads up Absolute Soul Secrets, the lar...

Read more

Airwallex enters awards season

Jane Stabler

On the back of employing their 100th employee globally and their Shanghai staff moving into huge new premises, Melbourne based international payments company Airwallex is continuing to ride a wave of significant growth and success, with a series of award wins and nominations recently announced. Las...

Read more

When you're sick, the support you'll get may depend on the 'worth' of your disease

Louise Stone, Clinical Associate Professor, ANU Medical School, Australian National University

Diseases low on the hierarchy of prestige are often difficult to diagnose and treat.PixabayThe name of an illness can affect the level of care a person receives. Cancer sufferers experiencing fear and uncertainty may have access to cancer care centres. Donations and bequests enable these centres to ...

Read more

Israel is prioritising PR over peace-building in the Middle East

Paul Duffill, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem last week represented a major PR coup for Israel, a move the country had sought for decades. It also came hot on the heels of another celebrated Israeli PR victory – the win by Israeli singer Netta Barzilai in the hugely popular Eurovision song contes...

Read more

Holidays & Travel

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...

Top Amenities You Enjoy by Renting Luxury Caravans for Road Trips

Do you love to undertake road trips? What the luxury cruises on the ocean are for ocean travelers, luxury caravanning is the same for land-lubbers. Traveling in a luxury caravan...

Here Are Some Extra Reasons for You to Visit the Cayman Islands

It’s no secret that the term ‘heaven on Earth’ gets tossed around a lot. We too are tired of seeing it used for places that have sandy beaches, palm trees...

FV by Peppers: Brisbane's Hottest New Hotel

Brisbane’s hottest new hotel, FV by Peppers has officially opened its doors with Mantra Group’s Chief Operating Officer Tomas Johnsson and the Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development and...

Long Island Boasts Signature Calendar of Events for Travelers in 2018

LONG ISLAND, NY (March 5, 2018) – There are many reasons to visit Long Island – New York City's Beachfront Backyard in 2018 from our most notable, the 120-miles of...

Places That Will Make You Want to Visit Indonesia This Year

Royalty, culture and history coalesce in Yogyakarta     Seasoned travellers wanting more than boutique shopping, hip bars and cutting edge restaurants are invited to try a new Indonesian island or include one...

Fashion & Beauty

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...

Easy Dress-Up Tips for Lazy Girls

Look, getting all dolled up is fun, but you may not always be in the mood for it. Unfortunately, though, this is exactly when you are asked to go to...

HEALTH

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...

Up and away: the impact of flying on your health

These school holidays, many people will take to the skies, unaware of the risks flying can pose to their health. Brisbane based house call doctor Ryan Harvey said it was important...

How to Lose Weight After 40

As you age, your metabolism slows down, which makes losing weight much harder. Additionally, your hormones start to fluctuate significantly, causing easier weight gain. Sticking to the same tricks you...

Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle Despite A Busy Career

If you’ve been swamped at work lately and really focused on achieving that next big promotion or getting an important project completed, you may have found that your focus has...

AHRIA - Husband created a skincare range for his wife and child

Meet the Dad who was so worried about the chemicals his pregnant wife and baby were absorbing… Forget perfume or flowers… this husband created a skincare range for his wife...

Cinzia Cozzolinos shares her 7 Day Feb-Fast Detox

Nutritionist and Founder of Nutrition Darling and Smoothie Bombs shares her 7 Day Feb-Fast Detox.  Cinzia Cozzolinos Tips are below and her 7 Day Plant Based Eating Plan is...

LIFE STYLE

5 Simple Steps to Find the Right Workbenches for Sale

A workbench is a form of table that are designed for different works. These vary in size, shape and materials, yet have three common elements which are:   A tool meant for...

Oil the Sewing Machine, or Face the Dire Consequences

Sewing is an art! No art is complete without the right equipment. Sewing machine is the equipment that keeps this art alive. It is one of those machines that makes...

7 Easy Ways to Lift Up Your Home Style

House redecoration doesn’t have to be a difficult undertaking if you come up with some easy ways to lift up your home style. You just need to find solutions that...

Choosing your Water-Fed Poles: A Difficult Path Made Easy

Have you ever experienced the power of nature? No!? But, you must have seen floods or cyclones? May it be air or water, harness the power and you will have...

Keep your cool in the Far North with new 3-way fridge for the tropics

Bridging the gap that has long divided two-way and three-way refrigerator enthusiasts, Aussie Traveller’s new XCD caravan and motorhome fridge offers exceptional cooling power with the functionality of an...

Renovation Hot Spots: The Sydney Suburbs that had the biggest makeover

As Sydney’s housing boom begins to decline, ServiceSeeking.com.au looks back at the suburbs that have had the biggest makeover between 2017 and now. The find-a-tradie site has designed a map...

FOOD & DINING

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...

5 Food Trends That Are Affecting Your Diet in 2018

With so many changes occurring in the food industry, we can’t help but ask ourselves how can this affect our diet and everyday life, right? It’s no wonder that these...