Peter Koo and Dan Halloran, City Councilmen, Want to Make English Signs the Law

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City Councilmen Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) want to "quell a culture clash between homegrown residents and new immigrants," reports the New York Daily News, by making shopkeepers change their awnings if the majority of the writing isn't in English. The councilmen say that the law is a safety issue, making it easier for police and fire officials to respond to calls. They -- and some shop owners -- also argue that it's better for businesses, which will be able to attract more shoppers with English.

However, the president of the Flushing Union Merchants Association is upset with the proposal, telling the Daily News that it is "ridiculous" and costly. Per the new proposal, the store owners would get four years to make sure at least 60 percent of the words on their signs were in English.

There is a law already on the books that mandates that stores have what the Daily News calls "key information" in English. The same two councilmen are also working on another bill that will block usage of any of that law's loopholes.

Language conflicts are by no means new to Queens shoppers. In February, a Democratic assemblywoman wanted to create a guide that features shopping terms in Chinese, Hindi, and Korean. Like Rosetta Stone, only on paper.

Queens politicians push bill to force store owners to include English translations for store signs [NYDN]
English as 'sign' language [NYP]

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"English-only" and all these sorts of English-centric policies are so stupid. Reality check: outside of matters of state, English is not the norm in Queens! If you want to try and claim that emergency responders are supposedly confused by the lack of English signage, base your rhetoric to push this bill around that. I actually live here and I've found that the majority of these businesses have very visible English signage to begin with. I wish these politicians wouldn't invoke this binaristic idea of a "culture clash" and think that the presence of English text is going to foster more commerce and a diverse clientele at these places. That totally betrays how linguistic practices and commerce interact, and it ignores the demographics and the linguistic practices of the people who make up these communities.

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