December 31, 2007

Another Perspective on English-Only

Over the past fifteen years there has been a large influx of Chinese immigrants into the Vancouver area, so large that the impact is quite noticeable. People comment that half the students at the University of British Columbia seem to be oriental. The most common family name in the Vancouver area is now Lee 李 (also Korean), followed by Wong 王, with Smith in third place. Chan 陳 is fourth. Chinese are now the largest ethnic group in a number of areas, and in many areas most of the stores have signs in Chinese. One such area is Richmond, the suburb near the airport, where over 30% of the population is Chinese-speaking. In Richmond, all of the top ten family names are Chinese.

Not surprisingly this has caused grousing by some of the Euro-Canadian population, especially Anglo-Canadians. The biggest complaint seems to be signage in Chinese, which they can't read and which gives the area a saliently East Asian character.

A while back I was visiting a Native (that is "American Indian") friend and we went to a computer and electronics shop in Richmond. Like other stores in the area, most of the signs were in Chinese and the staff were Chinese. We got to talking about the increased Chinese presence and the unhappiness it had caused in some quarters. He said:

I don't know who these white people are to be complaining. As far as I'm concerned, they're all illegal immigrants. But if I have to choose, I prefer the Chinese.
Posted by Bill Poser at December 31, 2007 03:10 PM