2017 | Group 2

Summary of Findings - 12 April 2017

Throughout the duration of this project, we visited 6 different McDonalds branches in Kingsford, Town Hall, Bondi Junction, and Penrith.

At McDonalds, we found multiple functions of various languages. For fluent speakers of English, the function of the language was for ordering food and for social purposes. Interestingly, individuals who weren’t native speakers of English would often socialise using their native language. We also found that Kiosks were used by both native and non-native speakers of English. They were often utilized for convenience but people not confident with their level of English suggested that they tended to use the Kiosks to avoid having to speak in English.

The knowledge of language in our domain is advantageous but not essential. In places with high levels of linguistic diversity such as in the city area where there are lots of tourists, workers found speaking a second language useful for ease of communication with customers. This was also the case in multicultural areas such as Kingsford, which is frequented by many international students of UNSW.

At McDonalds, if staff weren’t able to communicate in certain languages it could cause mistakes and inconveniences, so employees generally preferred people within the domain to be able to speak English to avoid misunderstandings arising from language barriers. Languages other than English are tolerated within our domain, but linguistic diversity is not actively encouraged. This is evident by the lack of usage of other languages in the domain (signage, kiosks, wifi, menu, etc. are in English only).

People who spoke languages other than English (including minority and indigenous languages), often still chose to use their limited English as it was the dominant language used in the domain. We did however find instances of customers choosing to speak in their native language (i.e Chinese), when employees appear to be of Chinese descent or are in an area populated by a large Chinese community.

Based on our findings, we can suggest that in order to promote linguistic diversity in the domain, McDonald’s could provide a language selection feature on their kiosks and provide menus in other languages. Additionally, employees who can speak multiple languages could have this indicated on their uniform or name badge (such as by using flag symbols).

Throughout the project, we encountered some problems and challenges. Language use can sometimes be a sensitive subject for some people. With that said, when collecting data through interviews, we needed to make sure that we were considerate and culturally sensitive. In addition, the validity of our data was based on the honesty of the answers provided by the respondents or interviewees.

The information that we gathered were mostly qualitative and based on anecdotal evidence. Due to the small sample size, it would be difficult to draw the most accurate representation of language use in our domain. Further research is needed with a more comprehensive and controlled approach for more reliable and accurate data.



Indigenous Languages and Multilingualism at McDonald’s - 11 April 2017

This week, we focused on issues regarding language use and indigenous languages from the perspective of McDonald’s employees.

First, we went back to Penrith, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up 3% of the total population, according to the 2011 ABS census data. One concern in regards to the census data is that it only states the number of people of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin living in the area, but not the number of people who can actually speak Aboriginal languages. More intensive research should be done in relation to indigenous language use in order to provide more specific and valuable census data.

(Australian Bureau of Statistics: Penrith Region Data Summary)

At the McDonald’s in the Penrith Plaza food court, the main language spoken was English, though we observed a small family speaking Korean, they didn’t want to be interviewed. We were, however, able to talk to a manager who only speaks English. When asked about their experience with customers or employees who spoke indigenous languages, they had almost no experiences with indigenous language speaking employees, but they did encounter customers on various occasions who they assumed to be speaking indigenous languages amongst themselves, but noted that they used English to order their food. When asked why they thought they experienced so little use of indigenous languages, they simply said it was probably because there weren’t many indigenous people living in the area. Their experience is reflective of the demographics, as only a small percentage of the population are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background. We asked them if they felt there was a stigma towards indigenous languages, they agreed that there is a general negative attitude towards the use of indigenous languages and they suggested that more representation of indigenous languages in mainstream media may help overcome this problem.

We also went to a McDonald’s near Town Hall, where we observed greater linguistic diversity, with customers talking amongst themselves in Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, etc., likely due to the close proximity to popular tourist attractions such as the Sydney Tower and QVB. We interviewed a crew member there who is half Japanese, whose native language is English but can also speak Japanese and a little French.

Photo of interviewee, taken with permission

Apparently, most of the employees at that branch can speak a language other than English at least conversationally, perhaps due to customer demand and a centralised location. When asked about the presence of indigenous languages, the crew member mentioned that one of the managers can speak the Māori language, but they seldom get customers who try to talk to them in indigenous languages. This is likely because it is more convenient and time-efficient to use a widely-used language (such as English) in customer-staff interactions for the purpose of ordering food (as opposed to socialising). Thus, if a customer knows enough English to order, they would have a tendency to use English instead of another language, and as English is the language of education here in Australia, it is likely that most Indigenous Australians would be able to speak English. On the other hand, tourists visiting Australia temporarily may not have had English language education and may lack confidence in English. This, combined with the fact that Chinese is a widely-spoken language, may be the reason why some Chinese tourists would choose to try and communicate in Chinese with people who look Asian.

Here is the transcript of the full interview:

What languages can you speak?

Well, I speak English and Japanese, and I learnt a bit of French in high school.

How proficient are you in each of them?

English: I’m very fluent. Japanese: conversational? And then French: I can make basic sentences.

So if a customer came up to you and spoke in French, would you be able to take their order?

I would be able to tell them that I can’t take their order in French. (laughs)

How long have you been working here?

I think I’ve been working at Maccas for about 9 months now.

Have you ever needed to use a language other than English while you were working?

Yeah, I have had to use Japanese one time. There was an old man and he didn’t know any English and he just wanted to order a Quarter Pounder.

Did he approach you and just started speaking in Japanese?

Um, no, he just went to one of the random counters, and then another co-worker asked me if I knew Japanese and I said yes, and then I took over for that.

Have you had any customers try to talk to you in a language that you didn’t know?

Yeah there are always people who try to speak Chinese. And then I have to tell them in English that I don’t know Chinese and then I’d get someone else to speak to them because there’s normally other co-workers who know Chinese.

Why do you think they try to speak to you in Chinese?

I guess because I look Chinese? I think they’ll be less likely to do that with Caucasians, but there are still people who assume that everyone knows Chinese.

Do a lot of your co-workers or managers know how to speak languages other than English?

Yeah, I would say most of them do. A lot of them know Chinese, and there’s probably a couple of Vietnamese speakers as well. But yeah we speak to each other in English.

Do any of them speak any indigenous languages?

My manager can speak Māori but I don’t think he’s had to use it at work.

Do you get a lot of customers at your store who don’t seem to be native English speakers?

Well, you can’t really tell by looking at them but I would assume so. We get lots of foreigners because we’re right in the middle of the CBD, and that’s where a lot of people visit and where tourists would often go.

Around what percentage of customers are tourists?

Um, around 30 percent maybe? Most of them know how to speak some English though. If they know enough English to order, I think they would try to do that first.

How difficult do you think it is for non-native speakers to order food in English?

Well I think it would be pretty difficult especially if you weren’t ordering something really standard because you won’t know the name for it at all. And the menus at McDonald’s are not very clear, so you can’t exactly point at this and say “I want that”. I think if they aren’t very confident in English they would mostly order the simple menu items because it’s a lot more difficult to order something specialised for the customer.

Do you think McDonald’s has done anything to try and help customers overcome these language barriers?

Well they already have those machines which have pictures on them but I guess it’s not really clear that you can order on those instead of the counter. And yeah they’re only in English.

WiFi Accessibility, Internet Usage, and Linguistic Diversity at McDonald’s - 5 April 2017

(4th Week of Data Collection and Analysis)

This week our objective was to obtain data on the usage of the internet for patrons of McDonald’s, and to analyse any correlations between the language spoken and the internet usage. Furthermore, this week will include discuss attitudes present towards linguistic diversity.

Location: McDonald’s, Kingsford.

When: 20/30/2017 – 2.30PM (Overcast and raining)

A number of questions were asked of patrons present. Key data collection questions included:

  1. Have you ever used the WiFi here at McDonald’s?
  2. Are you using it now? (If not, are you using ‘data’ to go online?)
  3. What is your experience of using WiFi at McDonald’s?
  4. What functions are you using on the internet?

Other ethnographic questions asked included:

  1. What language are you speaking / do you speak?
  2. Is it your native language?
  3. What language are you using online?

Data Collected:

  1. Arabic (Saudi Arabia) speaking man

–          Not using the WiFi

–          Online using ‘data’ on his smartphone

–          Chatting online (in Arabic language)

–          Researching online (in English language)

–          Using Snapchat (social media application)

–          Ordered using touch-screen kiosk (to save time and not due to a language reason)

Written Dialogue with his Arabic Speaking Friend (Photo taken with permission and does not contain sensitive material)

When we approached the first interviewee it was observed he was reading Arabic scipt. Interestingly, when approached the man switched-off his phone, and when questioned what language he was using on his device, he responded initially with ‘English’.  When informed that another language was seen, he then admitted that he was reading Arabic. Perhaps, this encounter demonstrates an example of a native-Arabic speaking having a negative-attitude towards Arabic, or an awareness of the language is not the primary-spoken language in that space. If linguistic diversity was greater in the McDonald’s and if more Arabic speakers were present, perhaps this would have altered his initial response to one that highlights linguistic diversity (and not hides it).

  1. Two English (Australian born) speakers (females, 17 y.o.a.)

Also can speak Spanish

-Not using the WiFi

-Both have prior experience of using McDonald’s WiFi

The interviewees commented on their prior WiFi experiences: “average”, “yeah, its OK”, “it’s good that it’s here”, “when I use it, I don’t really have a problem”.

Both interviewees used the touch-screen kiosk to order their food.

Could the demographics of these two interviewees provide insight into the ease using the WiFi and their choice to order using the English and picture-only kiosk?
  1. English- native speaker (young male, university student)

NOT using McDonald’s WiFi, but UNSW’s WiFi (uniwide)

-interesting he used unwide: more familiar, more reliable, automatically connects no further connection protocols once established.

  1. Chinese Speaker (male)

–          NOT using McDonald’s WiFi, but rather his ‘data’ as he was planning to stay a long period of time, and the WiFi has a time limit

  1. English Native speaker (male)

-NOT using McDonald’s WiFi in a couple of years because it is not as fast as 3G on his phone.

-Computer Scientist. He commented that he knows how easy it is to get into someones phone

-Speaks a little Welsh- doesn’t use Welsh online.

  1. Chinese speaker

–          Not used McDonald’s WiFi in Australia

–          His phone could not connect to McDonald’s WiFi

From the data, and from our own experience, accessing the WiFi can prove

We could not connect to the WiFi

Increased accessibility of (1) WiFi and (2) ordering food, for persons from CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) backgrounds could be increased by the introduction of a ‘change language button’  on the McDonald’s WiFi Portal and the McDonald’s Self-Service Kiosk.  Also, if staff wore badges stating they spoke another language, this would provide increased accessibility to persons of CALD background and promote linguistic diversity. For example, if a staff member spoke Greek they would wear a badge that read “Μιλάω Ελληνικά” (I speak Greek). Furthermore, the introduction of signage translated into the predominant LOTE (language/s other than English) in the area would facilitate increased accessibility and promote linguistic diversity. At the Kingsford McDonald’s, this would be Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, Spanish, and Korean according to the 2011 census.

Linguistic Attitudes in McDonald’s and Identity - 31 March 2017

As most sociolinguists agree that identity work needs to be carefully examined in its immediate locality and context, it is important to limit the identity work to the context of the sociolinguistic interviews” (Hatoss, 2012)

With this in mind, we began our third week of data collection and analysis by firstly checking the demographics of the localities we planned to investigate. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, out of the population of 14,101 in Kingsford, the top 5 responses for country of birth were 40.6% born in Australia, and the second highest percentage was 14.1% who were born in China, followed by 5.1% Indonesia, 3.3% Malaysia, 3.0% Greece.

(Australian Bureau of Statistics: Kingsford Region Summary)

In order to explore the languages of Kingsford in relation to how comfortable the interviewee felt speaking their own language, we decided to compare the perspective of one person of the major percentages for country of birth with a perspective of a person whose people are considered a minority in the area. We interviewed a Chinese born student who spoke Mandarin and found they are quite comfortable using their language within their locality, especially among friends. This can ultimately reflect that they are comfortable with that aspect of their Identity. They further mentioned their thoughts that Chinese people were somewhat a majority in the area which they thought to be evident because of the amount of housing advertisements written in Mandarin and also because of the large presence of Chinese restaurants with Mandarin speaking staff.

We expanded the interview with relation to attitudes supporting linguistic diversity and the interviewee expressed that she felt this McDonalds was fairly neutral. This was because the amount of socialization and ultimately the amount language use was mostly limited to ordering food. She did however highlight that, apart from McDonalds, within the classroom setting in the same area, she did sometimes feel looked down upon based on the language she speaks and her inability to speak fluently in English. This reflects negative attitudes towards linguistic diversity in the Kingsford area and, also reflects the importance of language capabilities in relation to the interviewee’s identity.

In attempt to contrast, we searched for a person of minority according to the demographics. We were able to interview a Turkish International student from Istanbul who is studying in this locality and he expressed that he was comfortable speaking Turkish as well as English because he attended a British International school in Istanbul. He did make the observation that Turkish people tend to be a minority in the area, but he has never experienced any negative attitudes or discrimination. He attributed this to the fact that Kingsford is located right next to a university where International students and multiple cultures are common.

This is a contrast from the earlier interviewee because they feel complete confidence in their linguistic identity but they also highlighted the lack of Turkish signage and the possible struggle of finding employees of restaurants, etc., who also speak Turkish. This shows that although the demographics suggest large cultural diversity in the Kingsford area, there is an evident lack of linguistic diversity because the signage, advertisements, restaurants, staff, etc., favour the majority peoples.


We also decided to investigate a second area to see if we could find further contrasts in attitudes towards linguistic diversity and contrasts in peoples’ linguistic identity. The second area we chose was Penrith, and according to available census data on the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only 25.7% of the population in Penrith were born overseas, leaving the majority to be Australian born. Additionally, only 14.6% of the population in Penrith spoke a language other than English at home. This is evident in our first interviewee in this locality, who is an employee at McDonald’s who only speaks English. Although they only spoke English, we asked the employee if they thought it would be valuable to employ multilingual workers at McDonald’s and they replied that they did think they would be valuable. They felt that they could help with taking orders from people who weren’t fluent in English and ultimately help prevent any possible mistakes in orders. This is an example of a positive attitude towards linguistic diversity.

penrith statistics

(Australian Bureau of Statistics: Penrith Region Data Summary)

We were also given a contrasting attitude towards linguistic diversity when we asked another interviewee, a customer this time, how they would feel if the workers at McDonald’s were all speaking a foreign language among themselves, that which they couldn’t understand. The interviewee stated that they would feel alienated and would prefer if customers only spoke English which reflects a negative attitude towards linguistic diversity. When questioned about his own language skills, he mentioned that as well as English, he was also a speaker of Spanish and he was proud of it because of his years spent studying it. We can see that this is an important piece of his linguistic identity but it also is a positive attitude towards linguistic diversity.

It was interesting to see how demographics compare and contrast to the people in these different localities. The findings that there are both positive and negative attitudes in these various areas may suggest that these communities are in a process of becoming more accepting of linguistic diversity or in a process of denying linguistic diversity.


Hatoss, (2012) Where are you from? Identity construction and experiences of ‘othering’ in the narratives of Sudanese refugee-background Australians. Discourse Society 2012 vol. 23 no. 1 47-68

doi: 10.1177/0957926511419925

Communication Issues When Ordering at McDonald’s - 24 March 2017

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.

Language Functions in McDonald’s - 12 March 2017

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.

WhatsApp Image 2017-03-12 at 10.32.56 AM.jpeg
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
Linguistic Landscapes of Fast Food Chains - 10 March 2017

Welcome to our first blog post for the our Linguistics Landscape project!

As it is our first post, we thought it would be appropriate to briefly introduce our chosen domain as well as discuss why we chose it, certain questions we want to explore, our research strategy, and finally our expectations and issues we anticipate we may face before officially starting our project.

Our Chosen Domain

After forming our groups for the first time, we were initially given the suggestion to do Churches as our domain. After discussion, we came to a group decision that we wanted to choose a domain that was a little bit more familiar and accessible to all of us. After discussing potential domains, we finally decided on exploring the linguistic landscape of fast food chains –  in particular, McDonald’s.

One of the reasons why we established this would be a suitable domain is because a lot of social interactions happen here. With that in mind, we can observe social interactions that occur between people of various relationships, including between families, friends and even strangers when, for example, a customer is ordering food.  This enables us to explore aspects such as how language use might differ depending on relationship and even role within the domain.

We also considered the fact that McDonald’s is really well established within Sydney (and in many other countries around the world) and have branches that are well spread out among different suburbs meaning that people from all over the world are familiar with it and therefore we have a diverse population of people from different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, and age groups to base our research on.

What Will We Explore? 

Before commencing our actual research, we came up with a few questions and areas that we want to look deeper into. Some of these include questions like:

  • What type of languages are used by the staff?
  • Do they exclusively speak English in the workplace?
  • Do non-native English Speakers face issues that get in the way of their work, or has it helped them at all at work?
  • If they speak another language at work, what indicates to them that they should? (i.e. do they need to be told to?)
  • What functions does language have in this domain – not only for the employees, but also for customers?

Our Research Strategy 

We spent some time contemplating whether or not we wanted to investigate the differences between languages used in different fast food chains such as KFC, Hungry Jack’s and Oporto. In the end we decided that we would focus solely on different McDonald’s branches, mainly for the reasons stated earlier – it is arguably the most well established, accessible and familiar to a diverse group of people. We also thought that in some cases, especially when there is a whole lot to research into, it’s more efficient to maintain a narrow focus rather than being too broad.

To tackle this assignment, we came up with a research strategy for collecting data. Each week, 2 people from the group would visit a McDonald’s branch and use observation, interviews and surveys to collect information and data about the topic of exploration for that given week. As a guideline for some aspects we could look into, we used some of the questions given to us in the ARTS3695 course outline.

Expectations and Issues

The fact that this is group work means that we obviously have certain expectations of each other and some anticipated issues we might face throughout the duration of this assignment. To minimize any  problems, we have come up with a team contract prior to commencing the project which we have all signed and agreed on.

In regards to the actual data collection, our main concern is whether or not customers and/or employees would be willing to be interviewed. Employees in particular may be hesitant in being interviewed especially whilst they are busy at work, and so what we could do instead is ask for customers’ insights or look for a staff member who may be on break, or who isn’t so busy with a customer.



One thought on “2017 | Group 2

  1. Excellent work so far. I really liked the interview with the McDonald employee sharing his/her thoughts on how they manage using mandarin with tourists, etc. It is interesting that tourists are more likely to address him/her in Mandarin and this is partly due to their difficulty in English, but perhaps there is more to it?

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