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Saturday, 18 November 2006

I blogged about it in January and Meredith blogged about it this month. The problem of foreign languages, it seems, is very important to many older residents of Sydney's multicultural suburbs.

Chinese signs were "the most prominent area of discomfort", not only for old people from Anglo-Celtic backgrounds but also Greek, Italian, Polish and Indian. They disliked the number of signs and posters, which often covered entire windows, the fact little or no translation was offered, and the poor design quality.

This morning I went to the shops, as usual on Saturday mornings, for me, to buy the newspapers. I arrived in the centre of the shopping strip around 8:30 and popped into the newsagents, whose Chinese owners have agreed to order in a magazine I want to buy regularly. They are very friendly. I didn't drop by to say hello to my Lebanese tobacconist. But I bought a sausage roll and a spinach roll at Michaels' coffee shop, where the manager is Asian. Probably Chinese, him, too.

After picking up some groceries, I dropped by the corner of Amy Street and Beamish Street for the bazaar. I had seen the laser-printed sign sticky-taped to the traffic signal pole on my way up to Beamish Street. The people who run it are Greek, and the proceeds go to a seminary or monastery that the Greek community operates in Gosford. Passing by the medical clinic, there was a long line of Asians waiting to enter the front doors, which were not yet open.

Returning home past the shops a Chinese store owner was shouting out, in his mother tongue, to someone at the back of the shop. I savoured, as I always do, the high-pitched, nasal verbalisations. But an elderly man dressed neatly in a blue, long-sleeve shirt and dark trousers, who stepped rapidly past me, bent at the waist in a peaceable stoop, spoke out against the cries of the vendor. "What?" he said, quite audibly (although the shopkeeper couldn't hear him). "Speak English. Can't understand you."

As I went past the street on which the Campsie Centre is located, he veered off, towards Woolworths, where I had earlier been served by an Anglo youth named Frank. "Hi," I had said. "G'day, mate. How are you," he replied.

In the conclusion of her 2004 study, [academic Amanda] Wise said she found "overwhelming feelings of resentment, disorientation, and exclusion" among Anglo-Celtic seniors.

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