Bill Mandating English Signage Worries Business Owners

Photo via News Kann

News of a proposed new law that would require business owners to post signs in English has some business owners in the diverse immigrant enclave of Flushing, Queens worried, the Korean publication News Kann reported. The legislation, proposed by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens), would require any business with foreign-language signage to also post a sign of equal size in English.

If the bill passes, the names of Korean stores should be written in English, and if stores violate the rules, they could be fined from $250 to thousands of dollars. Tony Avella, who draw up the bill, acknowledged that there would be resistance to the new law from Chinese and Korean communities who have settled in the area and run businesses for a long time there, but he defended the measure, saying that in an emergency situation such as a fire or a crime, a non-English sigh would make it hard for authorities to find the location of the incident.

Residents said it would take some time for businesses to comply with such rules.

Doo Sung Park, 50, said, “If enacted, with the time required to replace the signs, a lead time of one to two years is necessary.”

Another publication, Korea Times pointed out that stores are already technically required to post signs in English.

Originally, under a bill enacted in 1973, all business located in New York State have to print signs only in English. But in practice, the law does not specify which department will handle enforcement of the law, so it has been regarded as useless.

“Ninety-eight percent of Korean stores have signs in both Korean and English, so Avella’s argument that first responders find it difficult to respond to accidents is not right,” said Ik-Hwan Im, the chief of The Union Street Small Business Association in Flushing. “We will block the passage of the bill by banding together with the Chinese Small Business Association.”

One Comment

  1. I live in Connecticut and have been to Flushing a few times and have found myself lost because of the signs. Even the stop signs are in a foreign language. You begin to feel like you are in a foreign country, where English is not spoken.

    You would think having English signs will be a no brainer. It attracts English speakers to your community and to the businesses surrounding it. Besides, it is the right thing to do. The law should have been enforced all along. We are still in the United States of America, an English speaking country. The country welcomes all immigrants, and that includes learning the new language. It isn’t too much to ask to have your signs in the language of the country you live in. And for the person, who said that they will band together with the Chinese business community to fight the new bill, I would say put yourself in the shoes of the natives, who do not understand your language. There is an old saying “when in Rome, behave like the Romans.” If I was in Seoul or Beijing, I would learn to read the signs in the local language.

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