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Chinese or 'modern Latin alphabet?' Readers respond to Monterey Park sign debate

Monterey Park

Todd Johnson/KPCC

The Monterey Park City Council is considering a rule that would require businesses in the city to have at least one sign in 'modern Latin alphabet.' Backers say it's mostly for public safety reasons, but it's prompted controversy.

A story today on KPCC about the language of business signs in Monterey Park has been drawing opinions, including in an online poll that you can take, below.

The story in a nutshell: City leaders in the San Gabriel Valley community, which is close to 70 percent Asian-American, are contemplating a rule that would require all businesses in the city to have at least one sign in what they call "modern Latin alphabet." Not precisely English, but the measure would make businesses have signage that English readers could understand.

Many business signs in Monterey Park contain Chinese characters, although most also contain at least some English. Some business owners in the city believe English is good for business and are fine with the idea; others object to the measure on principle, and don't like the idea of the city meddling in their decisions.

We've been running an unscientific poll asking readers what they think. So far, here's how people have been answering:

 Yes! Businesses should try to be as accessible as possible, and this will help. (66 percent)

No! The city should stay out of their business and let them use the signs they want. (27 percent)

I don't know/I'm not sure. (8 percent)

Several interesting comments have been posted, too. Here are some of them.

J1998 wrote:

Let businesses do what they want. They know who their clientele is. If they are losing out on business because their storefront sign is not in English...so be it. Obviously, most of these businesses serve the local community, and if somebody who can not read Chinese wants to patronize, I am sure an employee inside knows English.

David R. wrote:

I'd just like to know what the business is. Period. I don't think that is too much to ask.

M.K. Mori wrote:

I'm a third-generation resident of Monterey Park and I think this is an embarrassing throwback to the old "English-only" initiative (c.1985). Proponents are even using the same old arguments about emergency responders being unable to find a street address due to Chinese signage — (I guess residents without any signs should be really scared!) — not to mention, broader commercial appeal.

As a marketing move...to what end? To attract some demographic uncomfortable about not seeing enough "modern Latin" characters? To discourage more mom-and-pop joints from setting up shop in Monterey Park? In my opinion, local flavor is the one thing going for our otherwise humdrum retail environment — we should be figuring out how to capitalize on local talent, not trying to whitewash an authentic and diverse community.

There are other good comments on the site. What do you think? Should businesses have the freedom to choose languages for their signs, or should the city have a say?

Take the poll or post a comment below.

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