“Why Should … English Be Bigger When This is an Asian Town?”

Posted by brandon.woo & filed under Diversity, Identity, Pop Culture.

Esther Frid holds "El Atardecer de la Vida," a book she wrote about the stories of seven senior Latin American women living in Canada

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Walking around a multicultural neighborhood like Flushing, Queens, you can see a grand Hindu temple, Japanese cosmetic boutiques, and Taiwanese herbal remedy shops—and you might think to yourself “Am I still in New York?”

And yet, to your surprise, you are. Flushing, you see, is perhaps the closest you can get to Asia in the Big Apple with one of the most ethnically diverse communities in all of America.

However Flushing may be about to experience a great change. New York City Councilor Peter Koo is introducing a measure that will require Flushing’s signs to be mostly English.

“If I go to a Polish neighborhood and only see Polish signs, I would not be comfortable,” said Councilor Koo, a Chinese-American immigrant himself. “New York is a city of immigrants, and English is a way for different ethnic groups to communicate.”

Koo’s opponents in Flushing, on the other hand, don’t see a need for more English in the community. “Why should … English be bigger when this is an Asian town?” asked Timothy Chuang, chairman of the Downtown Flushing Business Improvement District and a local business owner himself. “If that happens, Queens will stop being Queens.”

“This is America,” declared Hyung Chong, manager of a Korean restaurant in Flushing. “We should have the right to put up whatever sign we want.”

But perhaps the best solution for this situation would be a compromise between the two sides. Just having simple translations to let native English speakers understand what signs mean would create the sense of inclusiveness that Koo wishes to establish and please local business owners who want to maintain a feeling of ‘home’ in their neighborhood.

Flushing is a vital part of life in New York City. Having English translations merely ensures that everyone can participate in the diverse culture of the neighborhood.

Brandon Woo is a happy high school student in Vancouver, BC. By working with Schema, he hopes to educate others about current events and learn more about the world around him too.

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