Mapping the multilingual urban landscape
“Se necesita lavaplato” translates roughly as “We need a dishwsher”. So why is this “help wanted” sign only in Spanish? What does this say about the expectations of service industry workers in New York City? There are many such examples where a sign conveys multiple different messages, and the differentiated audiences are “filtered” by the choice of language. The sign seems to indicate: “customers speak English, workers speak Spanish”.
This linguistic cue might indicate that the management of this (since defunct) restaurant assumed the type of workers they seek are of hispanic origin, and therefore, are Spanish-speaking. The restaurant service industry in New York employs many Spanish-speaking migrant workers. What does this say about the systems of power that reify these service networks? Does Spanish act as a kind of “filter” for messages targeting a specific community of migrants?
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