I found this project to be an interesting experience and it was quite fun to do. Some of the replies we got from the interviews surprised me as they were quite different from what I expected. There is definitely a wide range of opinions regarding the questions we asked and each answer differed quite a bit so it was quite exciting to see what each interviewee thought and what their opinions on the subject was. It was also extremely fun to explore different parts of Sydney to get the required data. However, sometimes I found it hard to find someone who wasn’t busy to interview. Another downside for this project was that I found it hard to meet up with group members in order to conduct the interviews as everyone had different schedules and therefore made it hard to find times to meet up, although social media (i.e. Facebook, Messenger and Skype) definitely helped, especially with collaborating all the data that various groups collected. Actually knowing my members before this group was formed also helped override any awkwardness I would’ve otherwise felt with contacting them repeatedly to collaborate. Overall, I found this project to be an educative and fun assignment and I definitely learned things I wouldn’t otherwise have known if I hadn’t done this project.
This project provided an opportunity for me to experience how to not only gather data through interviews, but also record and present them in a variety of ways, such as blog posts, pictures, videos and audio clips. Our chosen domain of cafes allowed us to explore a number of locations across Sydney, each of which had a different demographic of languages spoken. It was fascinating to see how answers varied across each area, based on the interviewees’ ethnicity and language background. All of my interviewees were people I already knew and whilst I had an understanding of their background beforehand, it was interesting to note that many of their answers to certain questions went against my expectations, such as their decision to use their native language in some situations but not others. However, with this project stretching over a period of time, it became challenging to arrange times to meet up and conduct interviews. Overall, this project was an eye-opening and enjoyable experience.
For me, this project was an interesting first step in learning how to record and collate field work in a research setting. It was clear to see the advantages in our domain, being that we were not restricted to a specific demographic of people based on the ethnicity, religion, etc. Furthermore, our group had a prior established dynamic which made it easier to recognise our strengths and weaknesses. From the interviews the groups conducted, we received a wide range of responses about how they acted within the domain of the cafe. Each response revealed a deeper context of the individual being interviewed. In contrast, actually finding the time to conduct interviews proved to be the most difficult challenge to overcome. Since our group members had conflicting schedules, finding the time to meet up to do the interviews was one major downfall. This resulted in not as many areas of Sydney being explored. In general, this project did give us the ability to explore several parts of Sydney in depth and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This was the first project where I’ve had to actually go out “into the field” to gather data, which was a daunting but exciting experience. I think the most rewarding part of this project, for me, were the actual responses. Many of us (myself included) went into these interviews with a vague expectation that the interview responses would skew a certain way or follow a general pattern, but we ended up finding that they were as varied as the people we spoke to, as were their motivations for using different languages in different contexts. Possibly the most challenging part of the whole experience was actually approaching people for interviews – it’s one thing to talk to customers as working staff, as you have the safety net of your role and context to fall back on, but it’s another thing entirely to approach complete strangers out of nowhere and hope they’ll go along with an interview. Despite that, I had a great time and I’ve learnt a great deal from this project.
I definitely went into this project with more enthusiasm than I have for previous group work. It is always interesting to find out about other people’s opinions of everyday things that you normally wouldn’t think about. Thankfully, due to my experience at work, interviewing people and engaging them to be interviewed was not too difficult and I had fun doing them. All of the people we interviewed were very helpful and cooperative, which made the whole experience more enjoyable. The results that were yielded were also intriguing. I say that because we all went into our interviews having discussed most of the questions amongst ourselves and we all had a very similar view as a group. It was intriguing to see the simultaneous diversity and similarity other individuals had with our opinions. If anything, the main issue I had for this assignment was our inability as a group to meet up regularly due to our conflicting schedules. We did get around it with group chats and Skype, however I believe the only reason that it worked as well as it did was because we were already so familiar with one another and we did not have any communication issues. Overall, it was an enjoyable and engaging project and I feel like I’ve learnt a great deal about language use in the society around me.
Overview of Bilingualism and Cultural Background Census Data:
According to the 2011 Census Data, 76.8% of the population are monolingual, speaking only English at home. Of the monolingual population, the top 5 spoken languages are Mandarin (1.6%), Italian (1.4%), Arabic (1.3%), Cantonese (1.2%) and Greek (1.2%).
The languages spoken at home by recent migrants who’ve arrived since 2006, vary, with 33.5% speaking only English at home, 54.1% speaking another language and English either very well or well and 11.5% not speaking English well or at all.
In Australia, 27% of the population is what is known as ‘First Generation Australians’ (those who were born overseas). 20% are ‘Second Generation Australians’, who are Australian-born individuals living in Australia with at least one of their parents being from the ‘First Generation’. The last 53% are the ‘Third-plus Generation’, who have parents that are both ‘Second Generation’.
The highest proportion of overseas-born people are in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, with the least being in Hobart (less than 14%). However, over the past years, from 2001 to 2011, the proportion of migrants born in Asia has increased from 24% to 33%. Those arriving from countries outside of Europe and Asia has also been increasing.
Demographic of suburbs based on the 2011 Australian Census
West and North Western Sydney
Median Age: 30 years old
- 25-29 years old: 19.6%
- 30-34 years old: 15.3%
- 20-24 years old: 10.2%
Ancestry (top responses):
- Indian: 19.2%
- Chinese: 18.9%
- English: 9.5%
- Australia: 7.6%
- Lebanese: 2.9%
Country of Birth:
- Australia: 27.5%
- India: 21.5%
- China: 14.7%
Language (top responses):
- Mandarin: 12.7%
- Gujarati: 6.6%
- Hindi: 5.8%
- Cantonese: 5.7%
- Arabic: 4.1%
English only spoken at home: 26.5%
Households where two or more languages are spoken: 69.4%
Both parents born overseas: 82.7%
Comparison to results:
The data above matches with what we observed in Parramatta. We found Parramatta to be quite a multicultural community with majority being from an Asian background. This matches with the top languages spoken and ancestry data. This view was also reflected in an interviewee’s response who said all her colleagues are bilingual with their second language being an Asian language. We can gather that this may be due to the fact that most customers who aren’t a monolingual English speaker are of an Asian background and therefore might be more comfortable speaking their native language. This was confirmed by the interviewee who responded that she mainly spoke to her customers in Chinese.
Despite this, the menu of the cafe she worked in is only written in English and therefore matches the data stating that Australia was the top ‘country of birth’. This has led us to the conclusion that most of the customers who are bilingual are likely to be from the Second or Third Generation where they are quite fluent in English but are also comfortable speaking in their native Asian language. This might also be a psychological idea where when they see someone who might be of the same background as them, they they find it more comfortable to speak in their native language.
Median Age: 37 years old
- 25-29 years old: 9.1%
- 20-24 years old: 7.7%
- 30-34 years old: 7.5%
Ancestry (top responses):
- Australian: 27.4%
- English: 27.1%
- Irish: 7.6%
- Scottish: 5.9%
- German: 2.6%
Country of Birth:
- Australia: 70.6%
- England: 4.4%
- New Zealand: 2.0%
Language (top responses):
- Arabic: 1.0%
- Cantonese: 0.8%
- Mandarin: 0.7%
- Spanish: 0.7%
- Tagalog: 0.5%
English only spoken at home: 79.7%
Households where two or more languages are spoken: 16.0%
Both parents born overseas: 31.3%
Comparison to results:
The Census data for Penrith matches up quite nicely with the observations that we made during our interviews. During our walks around the cafes and restaurants in Penrith, we noted that most of the customers seemed to be Caucasian. This observation matches up perfectly with the ancestry data and country of birth data. Penrith was the only place where we interviewed a monolingual and according to that interviewee, most if not all, of the customers not only spoke in English to her, but also seemed to come from English-speaking backgrounds. We didn’t find a single instance of any menus being written in any language other than English in Penrith as well, which further backs up this data.
Lower North Shore of Sydney
Median Age: 35 years old
- 30-34 years old: 9.9%
- 25-29 years old: 9.8%
- 20-24 years old: 8.4%
Ancestry (top responses):
- Chinese: 26.3%
- English: 14.7%
- Australian: 12.3%
- Korean: 7.2%
- Irish: 5.0%
Country of Birth:
- Australia: 37.0%
- China: 13.6%
- South Korea: 7.7%
Language (top responses):
- Mandarin: 14.0%
- Cantonese: 12.8%
- Korean: 8.3%
- Japanese: 2.8%
- Indonesian: 1.3%
English only spoken at home: 40.8%
Households where two or more languages are spoken: 58.7%
Both parents born overseas: 70.9%
Comparison to results:
The census data mostly matches the observations we made. One thing to note, however, was that there were many more Korean-speaking individuals present than would be expected from the Census data. That said, the Census data is now 6 years old and both of us who were assigned to Chatswood have noted that there has been an overall increase in the Korean population not just in Chatswood, but also in Sydney as a whole. Our awareness of the Korean population may have also been aided by the fact that there were several cafes with Korean proprietors (most of whom were first generation). Also, in contrast to the census data, there were more Japanese people in Chatswood on the day Emily and I conducted our interviews.
Inner and South West Sydney
Ancestry (top responses):
- Lebanese: 18.1%
- Australian: 11.1%
- English: 9.2%
- Chinese: 6.6%
- Indian: 3.9%
Languages (top responses):
- Arabic: 22.6%
- Mandarin: 3.3%
- Turkish: 2.9%
- Cantonese: 2.8%
- Dari: 2.5%
Ancestry (top responses):
- Chinese: 18.9%
- Korean: 9.3%
- Australian: 8.6%
- Indian: 8.2%
- English: 7.3%
Language (top responses):
- Korean: 10.4%
- Cantonese: 8.7%
- Mandarin: 8.4%
- Arabic: 4.3%
- Nepali: 3.8%
In Inner and South West Sydney, we gathered data and conducted interviews across a variety of suburbs, including Merrylands and Strathfield. We found that our observations reflected the census data from 2011, particularly the demographic of the customers dining at cafes and restaurants in both Merrylands and Strathfield. It was confirmed by the two interviewees who worked at The Coffee Club Merrylands that many of their customers were Lebanese, with some who were Caucasian or Chinese. In Strathfield, we observed not only many Korean customers talking in their native language at cafes and restaurants, but also a great number of bilingual menus and signs that were in both Korean and English. It was interesting to note that despite Cantonese and Mandarin following closely behind Korean on the rank of top languages, there were little to no signs in Mandarin.
Transcript: Pishon Café, Chatswood
Interviewer: Emily Shen
Interviewee: Young Kim
Emily: I guess to start off with, what languages do you speak?
Young: My first language is Korean, second language is English.
E: When it comes to ordering from a cafe, would having a bilingual sign make you feel more comfortable? Or like a bilingual menu?
Y: I don’t really mind, but I prefer English. Because we’re living in Sydney, I prefer English.
E: When you walk into a Korean cafe and you see English mixed in with Korean, does it give you an authentic feel to that place? How does it make you feel? Or do you not really think about it?
Y: I haven’t really much thought about that, but it depends on how you communicate with others. If the employees aren’t comfortable with English and they prefer using Korean, in that case I might. In my personal opinion, English is fine.
E: So you’d prefer to use English when you order?
Y: Yeah, definitely.
E: When you talk to people you’re familiar with, do you tend to switch between Korean and English?
Y: I use both languages actually. It depends on who I’m with. With my high school Korean friends, I usually speak in Korean mixed with English, but with other people I know in Australia, I speak in English.
E: I guess, if a worker speaks to you in Korean…
Y: That’s fine, but I don’t prefer speaking Korean. I use English first, but they answer me in Korean, recognising my appearance. So if they recognise me as Korean, they speak Korean to me. I don’t really mind, but I prefer English.
E: When you speak Korean, do you feel like you identify more with your Korean background, particularly when it comes to celebrating certain events like Lunar New Year?
Y: Yeah, it tends to bring about my Korean background. But now at the moment, I’m adopting Australian culture, so it’s kind of changing at the moment.
E: Do you feel more comfortable with more Korean people in a cafe or do you feel less comfortable in a cafe where there’s more people who aren’t Korean?
Y: I don’t really mind, but when I’m sitting next to a Korean table, I can listen in on what they’re saying so it’s like…
E: It’s like you can’t help but listen in on the conversation because the language is so familiar to you.
Y: Yeah, that’s how I feel.
Video Interviews (compiled): Chattie’s Komachi, Chatswood:
Interviewer: Emily Shen
Camera Woman: Shajara Khan
Interviewees: James Lin, Sara Komatsu
Video Interview: Michel’s Patisserie, Parramatta:
Interviewer: Shanella Madanayake
Camera Woman: Nicole Chuang
Interviewee: Millie Huang
Bilingual Signs/Menus that We Encountered:
Question: When going to a restaurant/cafe that has its menu written in their own language alongside an English translation or reference numbers, do you attempt to say the name of the item you want in that language or prefer to use the English translations or numbers? Why/why not?
Before we proceeded with our interviews, we had multiple discussions on what exactly we wanted to ask the people we interviewed. During one of these discussions, the situation described in the above-mentioned question was brought up. We should note that the members of our group are all bilingual and are of an Asian background. We all had a similar answer to this situation: if we were familiar with the language in question, (for e.g. I am familiar with Japanese) and are comfortable speaking it, then yes we will use the native language words for the menu items. However, if we aren’t familiar with the language, then we would use the English version or use numbers instead. Our collective reasoning behind this decision was that we simply did not want to butcher the language by speaking it with an inexperienced tongue and that it would make us uncomfortable on the native speakers’ behalf (as they would have to hear us mess up their language). We surmised that these emotions arise from our own experiences witnessing people butcher our native languages (or other languages that we are familiar with) and the uncomfortable feelings we get in those situations. We did note that because we were bilingual and all Asian, that may have had an influence on our opinion on this subject and thus, we decided to put this concept into a question for the interviews. With this in mind, we decided that it was worth asking individuals from different backgrounds the same question to see how their actions would vary.
Starting with those interviewed by Nicole and Shanella. The first person that was interviewed was a young Caucasian girl who worked at a bakery cafe in Penrith. She was monolingual and had an Australian background. When we asked her the question and used a Chinese restaurant as an example she responded quite readily with a “Yes, I would definitely give it a try” and was incredibly comfortable with the idea. Conversely, both the elderly Tongan gentleman and the Australian-born Italian lady that we interviewed had the complete opposite reaction. Both said that they would feel uncomfortable speaking a language they didn’t know and would avoid it where possible. The Italian lady also said she would use numbers or simply point at the menu item instead. We also video interviewed a young Chinese lady who worked at Michel’s Patisserie (see “Step 7: Texturing the Milk”). She very adamantly said “No” when asked the question. Her response was essentially the same as the opinions we had as a group, which is that, unless she knows the language enough to pronounce it, she would not try to speak it for fear of butchering the language.
Moving on to the interviews done by Shajara and Emily. One of the individuals interviewed was a young Japanese lady who had been living in Australia since the age of 7 ½. When asked the question, her response was similar to those of our group members, saying that if she had at least a rough idea on how to pronounce the language then she would attempt it. She also said that she would attempt speaking the language rather than just pointing “because [she] thinks it’s a bit rude.” This is more so the case for Latin-based languages. Ultimately, it seemed that for languages that she couldn’t pronounce, she would prefer to use numbers, if possible. We also interviewed a Caucasian mother and daughter pair. Again, the pair were not comfortable attempting to speak a language that they aren’t familiar with, even going on to say “I wouldn’t want to look stupid saying something and they’ll be like ‘why are you saying it like that?’” Much like the Italian lady from Nicole and Shanella’s interviews, they would much rather point at the menu and/or use numbers. It should be noted that this family seems to have familiarity with European languages such as French, Dutch and German.
Finally, we have Amy’s interviews and it should be noted that all the interviewees here are in the young adult range. Two Chinese and Filipino female interviewees both responded that they would go for English first as, similar to previous interviews, they felt more comfortable speaking English and wouldn’t want to “butcher words from languages they weren’t familiar with” or “embarrass themselves”. Exceptions are if they were “fluent in the language and so was the waiter” or if they felt confident they were able to pronounce the menu item accurately. Other interviewees had varying answers, with one responding that he would go with a “mix” of using numbers, pointing at names/pictures or using the original language. Another Vietnamese male would choose to use English all the time, even if it was their native language. It was interesting to note that many of the interviewees, whilst not being completely fluent in the original language, would choose to order in the language if they were “familiar with the pronunciation of the menu items”. Three interviewees, two Chinese males and one Vietnamese female, would order using the original language from the menu if it were Korean or Japanese, rather than the English translation, simply because they were familiar with the menu items’ pronunciation.
Overall, it seems that most individuals are uncomfortable in attempting to order things in a language they aren’t familiar with and from the perspective of our group, this is a very understandable sentiment. We can also gather that it is not only the inability to pronounce words that prevents us from trying to speak these unfamiliar languages, but also a combination of public opinion and respect for the native speakers. Nobody wants to come off as disrespectful by muddling their way through the pronunciation of a word and as the Caucasian mother put it, nobody wants to look ridiculous in front of native speakers and other customers for getting the word wrong. At first, we thought that maybe it was our culture or background that makes us uncomfortable in ordering food and beverages like this or perhaps even our mentality as bilinguals. Now, we can safely say that culture is seemingly not a definitive factor in this, as seen by the results. We can also say that age doesn’t seem to have an effect here either, considering the wide age range of our interviewees. However, we cannot rule out the idea that this uncomfortable feeling can stem from the way we think as bilinguals or from those who speak a second language as we noted that the only interview that had an affirmative answer to the question was that of a monolingual. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to gain more evidence from monolingual people.
Hello all! Emily here, briefly taking over the blog. We’ve already had a few blog posts summarising the interviews we’ve held with a variety of customers and staff at cafes and restaurants, so I wanted to do something a little different for this blog post. As someone who currently works at a coffee chain (Starbucks) with also a solid background in linguistics (since I’m clearly working on this project), I am essentially the ideal guinea pig for our assigned domain, so I have a lengthy and in-depth post about my experiences with language, as a customer and as a staff member for you all just below!
To start things off, a quick profile of my background and languages:
Nationality: Australian (born citizen)
Ethnicity/Cultural background: Mainland Chinese – half-Shanghainese, half-Cantonese (technically this half is Hakka, but this side of the family originated in Guangzhou and only consciously passed the Cantonese language to my generation of the family, so I consider this half of my background Cantonese more so than Hakka)
Languages spoken (in order of fluency): English, Shanghainese (conversational), Cantonese (conversational), Japanese (high school beginner-to-intermediate), Korean (university beginner)
I can also understand basic conversational Mandarin and a few words and phrases in Hakka, but cannot speak either.
Language in Everyday Life
In my everyday life, my default language is English as it is my strongest language by far. Even when talking to parents, I reply almost exclusively in English, as it’s far easier for me and both parents can understand me perfectly. It’s also more practical, as a mix of English, Cantonese, and Shanghainese can potentially be thrown at me at any given time, and it’s easier for me to stick to one language that everyone’s comfortable with (Dad is comfortable with any of the three, but Mum can’t speak Shanghainese, though she has learnt to understand it because my paternal grandparents live with them).
Having grown up with hearing three (four when Mum’s side of the family visit) different Chinese languages in the household, I don’t necessarily register when people speak different combinations of these languages to each other in the home. When I’m the one speaking, however, I’m definitely made more aware of my background. I think this connection to my Shanghainese/Cantonese background is made stronger with the awareness that I am a person of Chinese descent who cannot speak Mandarin, because I lack a language with which to connect me with the rest of mainland China.
I also code-switch on occasion, though it depends on the language as well as the context. For example, I very rarely codeswitch to Shanghainese as I only really use it with people who can only speak Shanghainese, such as my paternal grandparents; as such, it feels far less natural to switch between English and Shanghainese than English and Cantonese, where I interact with more people who can use both languages. I’m also much more likely to code-switch with languages that I learnt later on than with languages that I acquired naturally during childhood, as I don’t have enough knowledge of Japanese or Korean to sustain a full conversation in either language. That said, it still ties in with context, as I use them more with friends who can speak English and Japanese/English and Korean, and so I’m more comfortable with codeswitching in these contexts.
Language as a Customer
When choosing a cafe, the presence of bilingual signage has no influence on how comfortable I am with ordering at a particular cafe. Rather than that, if I am after a more authentic menu, I am more comfortable in cafes that have more people of my background dining there (Conversely, if I just want a place to relax in, I am more comfortable in places with a good mix of backgrounds as I am much more comfortable with using English in general). I also look more at the menu items themselves to see if I can recognise them as dishes my family has either cooked at home or ordered elsewhere. I know barely enough written Chinese to recognise dishes that are familiar to me, so if I recognise a dish, I then check whatever English description is available to see if it matches with what I know of the dish.
I predominantly use English to order items and to interact with staff in general, as I am most comfortable with it. I will, however, use the language of origin to specify the menu item itself if it’s written on the menu as such, even though the rest of the sentence is English (e.g. in a Japanese place, “Can I please have one regular-sized katsudon?”). Similarly, if I ordered items over the phone it would be mostly in English except for the item, with which I would use the original language where possible.
Language as Cafe Staff
By default, English is the language I use most of the time at work, both when I interact with customers and with fellow staff, as both groups consist of a diverse mix of people. In most cases with customers, if they speak to me in a language other than English that I can recognise, I reply in English, but also give them non-verbal indicators that I can understand them so they can proceed more comfortably with the order. It is somewhat frustrating on my part though, as I’m not confident with my command of non-English languages in a customer service context to actually use them exclusively throughout the transaction. Even though I never let it show, I am slightly uncomfortable (this is all directed at myself) during these interactions because I can’t do more to help bridge that gap in communication for customers.
There are, however, a few occasions where I will switch in loan words or certain phrases from other languages. If I can recognise the customer’s native language, and gather that they have little to no knowledge of English, I sometimes use equivalent loan words (e.g. Japanese ‘koohii’ or Korean ‘keopi’ for ‘coffee’) to ease the communication barrier with phonology that is more natural to them. Other times an interaction will go mostly smoothly in English except for a phrase that is completely unfamiliar to the customer, at which point I switch in a learnt phrase specifically for this context. This situation happens to me especially with native Japanese customers and the English phrase, “Is that all for today?”, which was completely lost on enough Japanese customers previously that I asked a Japanese co-worker to teach me the equivalent phrase in Japanese so I could push past that barrier in future interactions.
Sometimes when Chinese customers approach me at the register, they begin in Mandarin or English, but I might pick up from their interactions with their friends or family also present that they are Cantonese or Shanghainese. I usually feel a mix of pleasant surprise and mild discomfort – surprise because it is relatively uncommon to hear in a customer service context (especially Shanghainese) as most Chinese default to Mandarin, and discomfort because I don’t feel confident in speaking either in the appropriate register for customer service. That said, if I’m feeling particularly brave, I might strike up a brief and friendly conversation with them in Cantonese or Shanghainese and explain my background before finishing the transaction and moving on. Incidentally, I also have just enough Japanese knowledge to potentially have a similarly brief conversation with Japanese customers, but I feel even less confident with it so I can actually count on one hand the times I’ve felt brave enough to initiate a conversation in basic Japanese.
Starbucks Australia previously had multilingual (they offered English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean simultaneously) menu cards with images that we could hand over to people at the register to help them decide. For space efficiency purposes (menus were constantly updated with new promotional items), the current menu cards only offer English, but still retain the images for visual reference. That said, I vastly preferred the old multilingual cards, as it made it much easier and more comfortable for the Chinese/Japanese/Korean customers to order what they wanted, rather than having to do some guesswork and hope that they ordered the item correctly. It was also easier on the staff end, as it increased the accuracy of the order that was being taken down.
This concludes my experiences with language use in cafes! Look forward to our last few posts where we look at bilingual/multilingual signage around Sydney, as well as discuss the results we gathered from our study across various Sydney suburbs!
The past week, I’ve (Amy) interviewed a few people I know who are frequent visitors of cafes and restaurants. All the interviewees’ bilingualism came from a second language, either native or learnt. All interviewees were born in Australia and had English as their first language. Whilst I had expected similar results because of this factor, I found that there were varying answers across all interviews, due to interviewees’ differing language level as well as how confident they felt speaking it in public to other people.
Between the three Chinese interviewees, there was a significant difference in language level, particularly in speaking. One interviewee was only able to speak Cantonese, very minimally. However, despite not having a large Cantonese vocabulary bank, he not only still uses Cantonese at home with parents, but also orders in Cantonese at Chinese restaurants (particularly yumcha, where many of the servers are capable of speaking Cantonese, Mandarin or both).
“I once had to call up my mum to find out the name of a dish in Cantonese because I didn’t know it in English or Cantonese.”
This was due to the fact that the only way he knew how to say the dish was in Cantonese and it would’ve been easier for the waiter to understand what he wanted as well. This may have been a result of constantly ordering in Cantonese and never using the English equivalent of the dish’s name. From this interview, it was interesting to see the types of situations one might use their second language.
The other two interviewees had an intermediate to advanced level of Chinese, where they could speak both Cantonese and Mandarin, as well as read Chinese. They were confident enough to switch between both Chinese and English when ordering at Chinese restaurants, as well as apply for a job that was completely in Chinese. However, in contrast, one would choose to visit a non-Chinese restaurant, where the other would feel more comfortable in a Chinese restaurant with majority Asian customers.
Both have also worked at The Coffee Club in Merrylands, where the demographic is majority Lebanese. They have also used Chinese with customers, where needed.
When interviewing the Vietnamese interviewee, it was interesting to compare the different situations where the interviewee would be willing to use the language.
“If the waiter’s older, I’d use Vietnamese. If they’re younger, I’d probably use English.”
The hesitation before speaking Vietnamese to younger waiters was from the assumption that they may be like herself, where Vietnamese is their second language and they feel more comfortable speaking English. This factor can also be influenced by the setting, as she found it easier to speak Vietnamese in Cabramatta, where the demographic is mostly Asian, as opposed to Bondi Junction.
With the French interviewee, it was interesting to note that French was not her native language, but rather a language she was learning. Despite this factor, she would choose to read French over English, if given a bilingual sign or menu. Where possible, she would also attempt to order in French or speak to the waiter in French. This greatly contrasted with many of the other interviewees, where their second language was their native language, yet they would still be drawn to speaking and reading English. From this interview, I could tell that the motivation and willingness to learn a language can have an impact on when they’d use it in public.
Despite many of these differences in level between all the languages, all interviewees were more than willing to order food in their second language and would do so readily, as though it were their first language. However, confidence, motivation and setting had a strong influence on the type of situation they’d do so.
On Saturday (25/3/17), our second group (Emily and Shajara) explored Chatswood for data collection. The demographic that we observed was largely Chinese, Korean and Japanese, as well as many other nationalities. We observed three cafes; the first two, Pishon Cafe and Gloria Jean’s Coffee, were franchises, and the third was independently owned. We also noted, for reference, that the first two cafes were located in the main shopping area (Chatswood Mall), while the third was more secluded, hidden away in a block of professional practices off the main road.
The first cafe, Pishon Cafe, was a Korean-owned cafe. The original store from which it was franchised had begun trading in Eastwood in 2009. Since the cafe was located across from the Chatswood station exit, there was a lot of traffic. Our first interviewee was a Korean student who had lived in Sydney since he was in high school. Despite being at a cafe where the staff used Korean as their default language as well as talking to the staff in Korean, he told us that he preferred to use English as much as he could, mainly to improve his speaking abilities.
We next went to Gloria Jean’s Coffee, located in a more high traffic area in Chatswood Mall. Our next set of interviewees were an Anglo-Saxon mother and daughter who are from the Central Coast. The insight that they offered as monolinguals navigating bilingual places showed that they wouldn’t really be observant of the bilingualism present, unless it was specifically pointed out to them.
Our final stop was Chattie’s Komachi, a cafe specialising in Japanese cuisine. The cafe is owned by one of Emily’s friends, Mai, who is of Japanese ethnicity. During our interview with Mai, she told us that when hiring, she would post the job position on a forum in only Japanese, on gumtree.com.au in only English, and outside the front of the cafe in both Japanese and English. She informed us that as long as the applicant was able to communicate to a fair extent in Japanese and English, it was fine with her.
We also talked to two of her employees, one of whom was of Chinese descent. He told us that he had better command of the Japanese language (having learnt it throughout high school and continuing to practise thereafter) than Mandarin Chinese, even though it was his first language, as he had moved to Australia at the age of six. The second employee, who was of Japanese descent, but born in Australia, informed us that being able to work in a place where she could use Japanese outside of a home setting helped her connect with her identity. Furthermore, she also explained the isolation she felt when she would hear monolingual Japanese people talk about things she wasn’t able to relate to.
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.
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.
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!
你好/侬好! (Nǐ hǎo/Nóng hō/Leı́hō/Lı́ hó)
আসসালামু আলাইকুম! (Assalamualaikum)
This first blog post will explore our thoughts, ideas and reasons behind choosing this domain. Being five individuals who were already very well acquainted beforehand from previous linguistic classes, forming a group, choosing a domain and creating a plan came naturally to us.
Our Chosen Domain
There were a number of reasons we were drawn to the cafe as our domain of sociolinguistic research. The morning rush at any Sydney-based cafe is a prime time for interactions between people of diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Not only do many choose to visit cafes as a suitable location to hold meetings and organise projects for work or study, the cafe has also become a popular meeting location for friends to simply gather and relax over a coffee. As university students ourselves who rely on a steady supply of caffeine to kickstart and fuel our productivity, we decided that conducting research in a familiar context and environment would be most suitable.
Working out a contract, we decided on a few locations in which we wished to conduct our research but then thought, is our domain limited to a coffee shop or can we include restaurants? We were permitted to expand our domain and thus, we were able to expand on the few locations that we had chosen with our original brainstorm.
Later on, we managed to each come up with a few questions that could be asked in an interview with either the vendor or a customer. Once the question list is completed, we will then separate into groups to conduct our research and each group will post a blog post summarising their find.
We plan on gathering all the data by the end of the month and using the rest of the time to analyse the data collected and putting together our blog.
Although we have a solid plan, we do expect problems to arise while we strive to complete this project. Bias may unconsciously come out as we are using our speech communities to our advantage when conducting our research. This will hopefully make it easier for us to approach potential interviewees. We are also expecting to encounter difficulties in our data-collecting process. Whilst we do expect to obtain a decent amount of data, our attempts to collect the data may not always be successful, due to potential interviewees’ varying levels of willingness to participate in our research.
Upcoming post: Our first interviews.