USA Then and Now: Bilingual Signs

Globalization
Multilingual Attention Sign

Image by beer

I think our generation’s been fortunate to witness the rise of the Internet and cell phone technology. The 7-year gap between my long-term US stays enabled me to witness an equally fascinating development in a different realm: the rise of bilingualism in the US.

When I was in Pennsylvania in 2002-2003, I didn’t see signs in any language but English. Granted, Pennsylvania is a predominantly white state, far from areas of high immigration.

However, here I am in 2011, in the equally Northeastern state of Ohio, and – lo and behold! – virtually every public sign has a subscript in Spanish.

It only makes sense for a country that has no official language to move toward bilingualism and reflect its current population makeup, but I wonder what other Americans have to say on the matter?

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3 thoughts on “USA Then and Now: Bilingual Signs

  1. Pingback: Russian Linguist
  2. Born and raised in Houston Texas, where I still reside, I have seen the Southwest part of the city “Alief” where I grew up, have the street signs in both english and chinise. Infact, the old China town in Houston, which today is called Midtown located due south of Downtown where I reside now, has all but dissappeared except for a few Pho~ restaurants. Today, Midtown is full of Mid-rises and is mostly white – yuppie part of town. Back in the 70’s, the young urban population found their home in places like Sharpstown, Westbury and the Gulfton area which is Southwest but not as far out as Alief. Today, that area is all Indian and Hispanic. Indian owned business thrive in the Gulfton area and in Alief, you can get authintic Chinise food there. Heck, I have been in some places where most of the staff dosen’t speek any english. When I was young, Alief was mostly white, but by the time I got to middle school, it was mostly mixed all the way around. When I finished high school, it was about half black/half other. About ten years ago it was about 85% black and today it is mostly hispanic. Just that much change in less than 30 years. As a student interested in our culture, which you appear to be at least in my opinion, I have grown up with the changes and the white flight tides rolling in all directions, mostly away from town, but now have seen it shift the other way somewhat, where young people with means and a future are now headed back into the Downtown, Midtown and Uptown area’s of our nations fourth largest city. And this might interest you, we have seen a spike in a Russian population here, and most of them are settleing in Midtown. One of my drinking buddies infact, was in the Soviet army and fought in Afganistan during the 80’s. He has scars on his arm and half of his body from a landmine. Midtown also boasts of having the one of the worlds largest liquor stores “Spec’s on Smith street” which is no surprise as to why so many Russians call Midtown home 😉 What really makes me proud about my hometown is that in 1913, it was a small, swampy mudtown on a bayou about the size of Sealy Texas, today, we have between a 3.4 and a 3.6 million population, and it’s mostly due to people from all walks of life and all over the world that have made the bayou city their home. And it’s mostly due to being a cheap place to live and an easy place to find work. If ever you make your way to H-town, just let me know, I’ll show you all around this place. It may not be a Fasionable, pretty place, but you have to clean the oyster to find the pearl.

    Chuck

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