A Sydney Council Is Trying To Make It Harder For Shops To Use Foreign Words On Signs

They want foreign words on shopfronts to be a third of the size of the English words.

strathfield shopfront sign language

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Strathfield Council in Sydney’s supposedly progressive Inner West is considering a new proposal to reduce the use of foreign words on shopfront signs, and people aren’t too happy about it.

The proposal, moved by Independent councillor Matthew Blackmore at an April 10 council meeting, is as follows: all shopfront signage must be in English, with other languages allowed to appear alongside as long as they’re a direct translation of the English, and much smaller.

In total, foreign words on signs won’t be allowed to take up more than 30 percent of the size of the sign’s English text, which is tiny in comparison.

Supposedly, this idea is meant to make sure everyone feels welcome and included at businesses in the area — Strathfield Council told Junkee that “this is an inclusive policy that recognises English and the linguistic diversity that exists in Strathfield,” and that it just “aims to improve the visual amenities of our town and local centre”.

In reality, though, that linguistic diversity skews away from English — two thirds of Strathfield residents speak a language other than English at home, according to the last Census.

If a huge portion of your community are most comfortable speaking Mandarin, but suddenly Chinese characters on signs are absolutely tiny, who’s really feeling included? If the aim is to make sure everyone can understand the signs, why is there a size requirement for different languages?

This is still just a suggestion at the moment, but at the April 10 council meeting all councillors voted in favour of the motion. The Council will seek community feedback in May, when the draft policy will go on exhibition on the council website.

If you live in the Strathfield area, keep an eye out for it — your feedback could make or break this.