Together, in one land

One marked difference between the USA and my country is that people don’t have to open their mouths for the language diversity to be evident. You can see it. It’s more than seeing Patwaisms in amateur Jamaican signs; in the US, you see completely different writing systems used for the express purpose of reaching a variety of readers.

A sign at the Air and Space Museum

A sign at the Air and Space Museum

At the Air and Space Museum, I had the pleasure of seeing Japanese in signs such as these. In the above, there’s Spanish and French (I think) as well as another one I can’t even begin to guess about.

A bakery in a supermarket

A bakery in a supermarket

And here we have another set of languages letting people know that this is where to get their baked goods. America even has stores that have their names in another language (with English, too, but still):

I don’t think we have that in Jamaica. Or if we do, I haven’t seen any. We have Chinese, Burmese, Indian, and other such cultures and communities here, but perhaps they’re all so integrated or just so small that they never really felt the need to do such things, or it would be impractical. I mean, I happened upon an entire poster in Korean there! That must mean there was a Korean community able to read it.

Care to translate, Robyn...? :/

Care to translate, Robyn…? :/

I think part of it might be that America just respects language diversity more. But then, they have to. They have a lot more of it, I think.

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5 Responses to Together, in one land

  1. Michal says:

    This is actually a really complicated issue in America and will very much depend on which region you’re in. DC hosts an impressive international and immigrant community, and is more driven to be accepting and supportive of them.


    • Michal says:

      (Note that a large population who are not fluent in English, and the drive to support them in their language, do NOT go hand-in-hand. Which is why when you suggest that the lack of ethnic language signs in Jamaica is because the non-Jamaican community doesn’t want/need them, I have my doubts. The issues in Jamaica may be very different, though.)


      • kenliano says:

        Hmm; I figured that many times it was the community that used the language to reach their own. The shops we visited that had Korean signs broadcasting their names were run by Koreans by the looks of things. We don’t have (many) places like that in Jamaica, I don’t think.

        For stuff like the multilingual signs, though, I can understand what you’re saying.


  2. I think in the Jamaican context…quite a few of persons with other cultures might not necessarily speak the languages that are associated. For the persons who own business they would need to appeal a majority of persons, and the majority is most familiar with english. Imagine, if a wholesale in downtown had their sign in Chinese (for example) even if chinese jamaican went into the store the fact that it would be such a small amount they would not be able to make a profit. So, i think you definitely have to take factors like that into consideration. In the US, these stores can afford to exist because of the communities they are based in. When they have sign like that I think it reminds the persons so much of where they’re coming from and what they’re familiar with that they would be drawn to it, which would enable the store owners to have a consistent market to draw from and also to make a profit.


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