The Polish delight

Yesterday I wrote about Polish being the second most spoken language in England and Wales, according to the 2011 census.

I sensed the rise of the Polish language just over 2 years ago. In our local library, the self-service machine offered 4 language options, namely, English, Chinese, Russian and Polish.

Today I went to Winchester library to check if the language options have changed. No. It’s the same language options. This picture shows what I saw in the Polish version about account, borrowing and renewal and making payment.

Polish at your fingertips.

Polish at your fingertips.

There are 2 issues here. First, why offering the Russian option? How many Russian speakers have you ever met in Hampshire, or in England? Without any statistic, I’m sure the Russian population in Hampshire is minimal.

Second, why offering the Polish language option? Have you met any Polish who can’t speak or write English well?

Based on my encounters with people from different ethnic groups, the majority of the people who can’t (or can’t be bothered to, or who are culturally discouraged to) learn English are from South China, especially women. Sadly, a lot of people (especially women) whose dominant language is in Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali or Gujarati (which I called the Big 4) can’t function in English in this country. If the library is to offer any practical support to the needy groups, I feel that the languages needed would be the Big 4.

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7 thoughts on “The Polish delight

  1. Hazel Bateman

    I have met a Polish young man who had only a few words of English and certainly couldn’t read it. Doubt if he would be using the library!! Agree about the ‘big 4’.

    Reply
  2. languageomnivore

    Fascinating, Janet! In the US, most libraries are responsive to communities that speak another language in their services and collections when people from that community identify themselves to the library and advocate for services or collections in that language. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    In my observation, however–and this is just a layman’s observation–people in the US from South, East and SE Asian backgrounds advocate for the inclusion of collections in their language or about their cultural heritage less than people who identify with European cultures. In a hypothetical East Coast town that’s 2% Portuguese and 6% Filipino, my guess is that the library is apt to have a small but credible Portuguese selection and virtual nothing about Tagalog or the Philippines.

    In a short blog reply like this, I’m not sure there’s space to tease out all the possible reasons why a second generation American with parents from Manila is less apt to advocate for Tagalog than a second generation American with parents from Lisbon is apt to advocate for Portuguese. Without doubt, however, the librarians are really in the driver’s seat; they control the library’s budget and collections. The onus is on them to look at census data and build collections that reflect their communities.

    There’s also some work to do, however, (in the US at least), in educating under-represented groups about what the library is, where it is, and what resources it offers. I’m not sure they always know.

    Reply
  3. JoV

    You have a point there Janet. The big 4 definitely should be in. Have you check if the librarians can speak any of the languages which are not stated on the machine? 😉

    Reply
  4. Pingback: My Site Table of Contents – I did it! | Janet's Notebook

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