Our second week of data collection was focused on issues with communication between the customer and the employee. Specifically we decided to look at where they might occur, and attempt to observe any happening.

First let’s look at the electronic ordering kiosks that we examined last week:

Unfortunately I was unable to get many usable pictures this week, but you might be able to see that this menu from the Town Hall McDonald’s on George Street’s electronic kiosk is entirely in English, with no options at all to swap to a different language. Although there are pictures to help a non-English speaker order, and the Chinese customers from last week seemed to have little issue, it seems as though it would be difficult to know exactly what you are going to get out of the transaction.

Unsurprisingly, all other writing in the store was entirely in English, including the actual menu behind the counter, the art on the walls, and although we didn’t get a good look at it, the safety information in the employee area also appeared to be in English only. While Australia may not have a listed official language, it is not uncommon at all for shops or signs to be written only in English, so this was in no way unexpected. It is however evidence that points towards this being a monolingual English space, and could be an issue for someone who is not fluent in English attempting to order, or work, at these establishments.

To talk more about difficulties ordering, while at this same location, we witnessed two scenes in which non-English speakers, two Japanese speakers and one Mandarin speaker, were unable to recognise when their order had been called. Orders are called simply using a number given on your receipt, so this shouldn’t trip up anyone who has officially learned English for very long, so it is possible that these people had never officially learned the language, or that they had simply learned a long time ago and forgotten. Another possibility is that the layout of the receipt was confusing to them, leading them to not know which number was theirs. Unfortunately we were not able to talk to these people, but next time we witness this happening we will attempt to ask directly what the cause was.

In addition to the Town Hall location, we also had the chance to talk to one of the staff at a Bondi Junction McDonald’s, the transcript of which is attached at the bottom of this post. They told us that although they can only speak a little Mandarin and Cantonese, and always greeted the customers in English, they sometimes get customers trying to speak to them entirely in Mandarin. They also indicated that this might be because the McDonald’s is located near Bondi Beach, so they likely get more tourist customers, some of whom would be Chinese.


Interviewed on 17/3 4pm

Branch: Bondi Junction Interchange

Position: Crew member (front counter)

How long have you been working here?

Over 2 years

Can you speak any languages other than English? How did you learn them?

Yes, I can speak a little Cantonese and Mandarin, but not very fluently, just basic conversation. My dad’s from Hong Kong so he speaks Cantonese, and my mum’s from China so she speaks Mandarin, and I just picked up a bit at home.

Have you ever needed to use those languages when communicating with managers, co-workers, or customers?

Yes, I’ve had to speak Mandarin a few times with customers. I think because we’re kind of close to Bondi Beach, so we sometimes get some Chinese tourists coming in who have trouble speaking English.

How do you know when to use Chinese with customers?

Usually they just approach me and start speaking in Mandarin. Even though I say, like, “Next waiting please” in English, I think they just assume I can speak Mandarin because I look Asian. I can’t speak Mandarin very well though so when I can’t understand someone because they talk to fast or they talk with an accent I try to ask a co-worker who can speak Chinese or we just sort of deal with pointing and gestures.