General Question

willbrawn's avatar

How do you feel about signs in our stores displayed in multiple languages?

Asked by willbrawn (6606points) August 23rd, 2008 from iPhone

from grocery stores to home depot. How do you feel about signs being in different languages? And even sometimes being displayed with English as the smaller text.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

60 Answers

Harp's avatar

I look at it as a learning opportunity, for myself and everyone else. For non-English speakers, seeing the signs in their own language right alongside the same text in English not only simplifies their lives, but shows them how to say it in English. By the same token, I’m very interested in languages and I have actually picked up several words and phrases from these multi-lingual signs.

Seeing new words and phrases in context, while you’re actually out navigating new situation, is far more effective than learning in classrooms or from books. We want them to learn English, sure, but why not take the opportunity to broaden our own language horizons, too.

mirza's avatar

I find it annoying. I want to go up to such store owners and say “This is America”

rowenaz's avatar

Hhhhmmm. The store owner is trying to make money, and appeal to his client base. What’s wrong with that? It’s called good business.

lefteh's avatar

@mirza: This is America, you are correct. And America was founded as an asylum for immigrants. They brought their language with them. Why should we expect current immigrants to abandon their native tongue? About 15% of the population speaks Spanish as their first language. That’s about 30 million people. Why should they be deprived of knowing where the bathroom is or in which aisle they can find chicken breast?

allengreen's avatar

it is called “good business”. These English only folks have deep serious issues, just wait until these American Underclass are the landscapers and house keepers for the Saudi and Chinese and Indian’s that are beginning to buy America on Blue Light Special.

seVen's avatar

I like my native spoken language(Polish) being displayed in Chicago Home Depot etc since most people there are Poles. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to learn any English at all as you see me speaking it.

gailcalled's avatar

Tengo gusto de él. Cela me satisfait. Ich mag es. Lo gradisco. Ik houd van het.

seVen's avatar

Mi piacè anche la lingua italiana quando la vedo negli negozi americani :)

lefteh's avatar

@Gail: Une réponse parfaite.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

I’ve always held the mentality of “When in Rome, do what Romans do.” That said, I don’t think people should have to abandon their native tongue, but they should still put an effort into learning ours. I don’t mind signs with multiple languages on them though because, as mentioned above, it can and does help. Alienating people doesn’t do any good at all.

gailcalled's avatar

Have you listened to the announcements in the SF airport subway recently?

lefteh's avatar

I wasn’t aware that the Romans spoke French.

My point is that English is not even our native language. Our largest native languages are Navajo, Dakota, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Apache.

seVen's avatar

if you ban other languages you than should also ban words like pizza, spaghetti,kielbasa,sushi,pepperoni,wasabi,goulash,etc etc

gailcalled's avatar

seVen: I am now going to brush up on my Italian. Thanks.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@Lefteh: Alright, fine, I shouldn’t have used the word ‘native’ to describe the role of the English language in America. I supposed I should have said “de facto national.”

ladytmerie's avatar

@ leftah… well said. The ideal of America is freedom. Freedom to be who you are regardless of language etc.. Who are we to tell people to not speak or read their native tongue. I am able to learn from those signs to be reading other languages and knowing what it says. I have no problem with it, just close minded people who do.

seVen's avatar

welcome gail, 3 yrs spent in italy might qualify me as italian I think, lol :P

ladytmerie's avatar

edit: I could learn to proofread my responses also. Sorry all.

Snoopy's avatar

I think the signs should be in English only. I do not expect people to abandon their culture or their language. However, I do think that it is reasonable that people living in America learn to speak English.

I can also understand why the signs in a retail store would be multi-lingual. It is good business. I just don’t like it…..

lefteh's avatar

How does it hurt you? It’s not like the signs have other languages INSTEAD of English.
They are in addition to English. You read the English, and carry on with your life. It does not harm you. It is, however, very beneficial to those who do not speak or read fluent English. Why would you ever want to remove something that is harming nobody, but helping millions?

Snoopy's avatar

I don’t know who your are talking to lefteh, but I am going to presume it is me…?

It doesn’t hurt me. I said I don’t like it….I think that it enables people to avoid learning English.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

Multi-lingual signs seem like a really silly thing to be bothered by. At worst they shouldn’t be anything more then a mild, mild inconvenience, at best they’re helping people. Learning a second language is difficult, and from my understanding of it learning the English language is far from a walk in the park. I agree that people should put in an attempt at learning English, but why spit on their faces and make life difficult for them in the mean time? I’d especially feel for the people that just don’t have the resources to learn. Tutors and books cost money, time and effort that not everyone is capable of spending.

lefteh's avatar

What if they are trying to learn English, Snoopy?
Maybe they’re in the process. If I just started learning English, I don’t think I would know the word for “pot roast.” Why should they not be enabled to read signs in their native language while learning English? There is just no reason to avoid multilingual signs.

Snoopy's avatar

@crayon. Good grief! I am not spitting in anyone’s face. I do not lie awake nights and nash my teeth about this issue, for heaven’s sake! I answered the question asked, nothing more. Don’t be so dramatic. Sheesh!

I lived overseas for several months and traveled extensively, including in multiple countries where people wouldn’t even think about speaking to me in English (e.g. Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France,etc.). I know it is hard. I know it sucks. But I also know after taking 5 years of German that the best way to learn a language is total immersion.
And lest you think I am some nasty person, I am the first person to step forward and help someone who is struggling w/ a language issue. Because I have been there.

@ lefteh. There is a reason. I have explained myself already…..

JackAdams's avatar

It’s a good idea, but should be done voluntarily, and not mandated by law. Please note that all signs at the USPS offices are only in English.

August 23, 2008, 3:17 PM EDT

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@Snoopy: Says one dramatic person to another. Snark aside, I apologize. I was being unnecessarily harsh. But I wasn’t referring specifically to you and I should have made that a little bit clearer in my post. I encounter a lot of anti-Hispanic sentiment here in central Ohio, so most of the time I encounter the logic you used to back your claim it is being used in a malicious and cold manner. Again, it was wrong of me to assume that you had a similar attitude and I’m sorry.

And you’re right, immersion is the best way to learn, but I still don’t see how having multilingual signs are so detrimental to the process. If the country is the classroom, the signs are like learning aides. Besides, these signs aren’t slapped around everywhere like post-it notes, so at some point or another genuine learning does occur

@JackAdams: I agree with you on that, it should be voluntary.

Snoopy's avatar

@Crayon. I think your point about aiding the learing process is fair….and I am sure it does occur. I just have come across too many who refuse to learn English (typically seen w/ older immigrants as opposed to younger—). Additionally, I have been in professional situations where the person in question expects me to find a translator for them….at my expense and effort mind you…..without any bother to “meet me in the middle”, so to speak.

So….even though I might incorrectly get lumped into a xenophobic group, I am still sticking to what I said…..English only, please.

JackAdams's avatar

I saw a sign in a store that read, “ENGLISH ONLY”

Right below that, on the same sign, was “INGLES SOLAMENTE”

August 23, 2008, 3:48 PM EDT

ladytmerie's avatar

@ snoopy-It took you five years to learn German. Should non-English speakers not be able to read signs for five years??? Should the percentage of people attempting to learn English suffer for those who don’t or can’t learn?

Snoopy's avatar

@lady. It did NOT take me 5 years to learn German. I took German for 5 years. There is a distinct difference.

ladytmerie's avatar

@ snoopy I guess you missed my point.

Snoopy's avatar

No, not really. I think you missed mine, w/ respect.

You imply that it would take someone 5 years to learn enough English to be able to navigate successfully through a retail store (as per the question). Look at what you said….you imply that non-English speakers would take up to 5 years to learn the English that might appear on signs that say things like “cashier” or “exit”. That is ridiculous.

I think immersion is the best way for someone to learn a language as I said above.

The bottom line is that the retail stores are not doing this to educate the immigrants. They are doing this to extract more money from their pockets. Period.

I simply think that they are doing a disservice to the very customer that they are trying to capture by crippling them in a way in which most of the rest of the world that they function in doesn’t. A person who has English as a second language will assimilate faster the faster they learn English.

Snoopy's avatar

And to further emphasize what I am trying to say….I see nothing wrong w/ multi-lingual signs in areas that might be populated w/ transient foreign language speakers (e.g airport).
Home Depot and the local grocery store (as per the question) don’t qualify.

gailcalled's avatar

I’ve learned some Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish and Faroese because of Fluther. (Altho I couldn’t order a pot roast, I am having fun.)

@seVen: put your Italian sentence (Mi piacè anche la lingua italiana quando la vedo negli negozi americani) into Babelfish.com and watch what happens. I do get the gist, of course, but it is funny. Then translate it back to English.

Snoopy's avatar

oooooh. gailcalled Thank you for sharing that site!!

JackAdams's avatar

A Texas rancher has two signs at the entrance to his property.

The first sign, in English, reads, “TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT!”

The second sign, written only in Spanish, reads, “LEARN TO READ THE OTHER SIGN!”

August 23, 2008, 7:24 PM EDT

marinelife's avatar

Get over yourself.

jca's avatar

i resent having to “press 1 for english.” if i go to mexico, would i have to “press 1 for spanish?”

whether it’s right, wrong, whatever, it’s how i feel.

lefteh's avatar

No, because Spanish is spoken by 97% of the population.

jca's avatar

and when we go to mexico and we don’t find many things in english, what do we have to do? we have to figure it out. if we lived there, we’d have to learn it.

lefteh's avatar

If a significant number of inhabitants of Mexico spoke something other than Spanish, then I would expect Mexican shopkeepers and government leaders to acknowledge that and cater signs to those who spoke a different language.
I would not consider 3 out of 100 a significant number. 20 out of 100, on the other hand, I would consider quite significant.

jca's avatar

lefteh: as i said in my first post, whether it’s right, wrong, whatever, it’s how i feel. it’s not an argument, it’s my opinion. the question was “how do you feel about…” and it’s how i feel. we could debate it forever, and you have your opinion and i have mine. many people in this country feel the way you do about the subject, and many feel the way i do about it.

lefteh's avatar

You asked if you would have to press 1 for Spanish in Mexico. I simply told you why you would not. Then, you explained that we would all have to learn Spanish if we moved to Mexico. That is not an opinion, and it is a statement with which I disagree, so I showed why I thought it was incorrect. I am not contesting your opinion at all.

nina's avatar

I feel mistrustful of the store if the English part is not written correctly. I am probably wrong.

rowenaz's avatar

That’s funny – I think, “Cool – maybe there will be some interesting things to buy that I can’t buy somewhere else!” Examples include “foreign” books, foods, videos, music, magazines, spices, drinks, newspapers, candy, and the list goes on….

pathfinder's avatar

Store-I thing suplyes kine of that.It is good to hit in deffrend sort of liryc.This is great oportunity to share with wisdom any of. Here is a is a problem for witch I feel litle bit shame[my gram]Thanks you…The language can finaly break the ice among publicculture .I have to sort my online with my friend from portugease.Nouse ami est ce parable.

Snoopy's avatar

@pathfinder: huh?

gailcalled's avatar

Path is either an original polyglot or the world ‘s worst liar. I can’t decide. But he manages to spell too many words correctly and to use too many idioms properly. Even his French reeks of intelligent design.

morphail's avatar

The US does not have an official language.

Who said this?
“aliens… will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion”

It was Benjamin Franklin, in 1751. He was talking about Germans.
http://158.130.17.5/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/000897.html

The first newspaper announcement of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was published in German.
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003389.html

And yet English survived!

rowenaz's avatar

KUDOS to morphail!!!

ashoop's avatar

Since we are a melting pot, I think you need it if you want to do business and make money catering to several ethnic backgrounds. If I was in a foreign country I would be lured toward a english advertisement than a unfriendly non english stand.

miss_meagan_jo's avatar

This is America people we speak English! If u live here learn our language because when we go to a foreign country we have to learn yours.

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

@miss_meagan_jo – Actually, there are many, many cases where we don’t, as English is a common trade language now.

lefteh's avatar

Go to Paris and order a “medium rare steak with a side of mashed potatoes.” I guarantee they will understand you.

gailcalled's avatar

Go to Romania, Zambia, The Netherlands, Greece, Patagonia and Outer Mongolia and they also will understand English.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I have no problem with it. It seems to me that many English speaking people expect to go to another country and have English signs, menus etc and have everyone speak to them in English so they don’t even have to attempt to make the effort to learn another language and yet they are very quick to use the old “if you come to our country you should be able to speak our language” card. It really irritates me.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Snoopy What about people who are merely visiting America rather than living there. Do you expect them to learn a whoole new language for what may only be a week or two. When you visit other countries do you make sure you are fluent in their language even if you are only there for a week?

supastarstatus93's avatar

most of the people speak english so they sould only be in english

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