This week was our first week of data collection for this assignment and we focused on the function of languages in our domain. Since our tutorial discussion topic this week also included code-switching, we decided to also investigate a little bit into bilingualism and code-switching where we could.

It’s important to take into consideration the context in which we are collecting information. This week, we went to the McDonald’s on Barker street in Kingsford. As we arrived we weren’t sure what to expect, but we almost instantly noticed that most people at this particular branch were of a East or Southeast Asian background, and many were students – unsurprising, as it’s located right beside the University of New South Wales.

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Our main area of focus – the outdoor section of McDonald’s in Kingsford

We decided to go about collecting data in three different ways and these included through observation, interviews and a small survey to get a gist of the demographics. Something that we thought was fascinating was the new ordering kiosks, which was essentially a touch-screen which people could instantly order food and pay by card from. The reason we thought this was interesting is because we wondered whether or not people used this simply for convenience or with the implication of not having to use verbal language when ordering face-to face with an employee.  We included questions in our interview in regards to this to look into it further.

The ordering kiosks


To get straight to the point, we found a few things simply from observation in regards to the function of language within this domain. Socialization is the key function we see as people come here to eat with friends and family. Language as a function of ordering food is another significant point as people exchange communication through a screen (as mentioned previously) and with a stranger over-the-counter.  Some more abstract forms of language use could also be observed as we saw people calling or messaging on their mobile phones and even listening to music.

Through our survey we managed to get a glimpse of the language diversity of our chosen area. We found 13 people who spoke Mandarin and English (including 1 who also spoke Cantonese), as well as one or two people who also spoke Hindi, Oriya, Marathi and Bengali.

To look into whether language has an effect on whether or not people choose to order at the kiosk instead of over-the-counter with an employee, we listened for groups of people in attempt to find potential interviewees who perhaps weren’t as confident in speaking English. In the end, we interviewed a group of five Chinese students who used the kiosk to order. Initially, they suggested that they chose the kiosk because it’s more quick and convenient. After a bit of conversation, they admitted to their language capability having an affect on their decision. They even said that if they were more fluent and confident at English, they would just order at the counter.

Those eating alone often used their smart phone and used earphones
The outdoor dining area. We approached customers and recorded the languages being spoken
Mandarin Speakers discussing their future plans of returning to China