Today we (Nicole and Shanella) went on our first round of data gathering. Our allocated locations were West and North Western Sydney so we decided to go to Penrith first. We found that the demographic in Penrith was mostly Caucasian with a mix of other nationalities including Tongan, Chinese and Indian. At a later date, once we have compiled the data from our other members, we will be comparing our observations with census data.

We first observed two different cafes in Penrith Plaza (The Coffee Club and Baker’s Cafe) and found that a majority of the customers were either families or middle-aged to elderly people, who were, for the most part, Caucasian. We interviewed a young Caucasian girl employed by Baker’s Cafe. She did not speak any language other than English, and through this, we were able to gain an insight into bilingual speech communities from a monolingual perspective. We also found that she hadn’t encountered a situation where she needed to interact with a customer in any other language than English. Hence, she is a good control for comparison between monolingual and bilingual speech communities.

Baker’s Cafe, Penrith Plaza

We also interviewed both a Tongan gentleman (who could speak English and Tongan) and an Italian chef (who could only speak English but could understand Italian). Both interviews gave us some interesting examples of how individuals interact with their own and other speech communities.

Our next stop was Parramatta, where we video-interviewed a Michel’s Patisserie employee who was of Chinese background. She spoke both English and Mandarin whilst working, due to her customers also interacting with her in Mandarin. This seemed to be a common theme at this particular Michel’s branch. Interestingly, in comparison, the branch in Penrith had mainly Caucasian employees and customers and we believe this to be because of the difference in speech communities.

Michel’s Patisserie, Parramatta

The speech community in Penrith consisted largely of English speakers, whereas Parramatta had a more multilingual community. Because of this, shops are more likely to have employees that are bilingual or multilingual, to cater to the needs of the customers present in the area.

Upcoming post: More interviews!