Linguistic Landscape in Hong Kong: Karen Nguyen

Hong Kong has quickly become an international city; therefore, they utilize English as well as Cantonese as both their official languages. This makes navigating Hong Kong easy to the visiting tourist. As Leeman said, “Instances of written language in the landscape … are also productive signs: they have productive economic and social consequences…” (pg. 332) Although there are not many street signs that show the road name, because English is an official language of Hong Kong, all signs must be in English as well, as shown below:

Many places have the name of their stores/restaurants in English, such as money exchange places, shown in example 2:

Yet some of the times, these places do not show up as English on navigating apps like Google maps. This creates more work for people to navigate or causes confusion, but still navigating Hong Kong has been easy because of such written languages that provide productivity for anyone visiting.

While at my internship, I hear some of my coworkers use a mix of English and Cantonese. They work with a lot of our clientele that are local and international as well, so it is important for them to understand and utilize both languages. However, my coworkers who work as graphic designers or warehouse management strictly only use Cantonese and have very little vocabulary or understanding of English to be able to communicate with me. This shows me to how while some people have held on strictly to their own culture and has not experienced much to need to learn English, the rest of the world has shaped Hong Kong where some people do need to use English to do business both locally and internationally as well.

On the streets of Hong Kong, I hear very little variety in usage of languages as I walk through. I mainly only hear other languages when used by tourists or people I suspect to not be native to Hong Kong or China. I hear strictly Cantonese spoken. What I found as interacting with people Hong Kong is that not many people speak English well as I thought they would.

In very developed areas, I would be able to find a lot of people that are able to use English well enough to communicate for directions. I suspect this is because these areas are more tourist heavy and therefore, having English as a skill is beneficial. While in places that are more underdeveloped, streets that have “mom-and-pop shops,” consist of less people who can converse in English. Yet just like in the reading where many non-Chinese-owned businesses would use Chinese in their name (p. 351), places here who are non-American-owned use English in their name that is generally next to their Chinese equivalent. Menus at restaurants are the same where they use a lot of English in the menu below their Chinese language, such as the restaurant I usually eat at for lunch below:

These places often make it easier on travelers, creating more business for them as compared to restaurants that do not have English on their menus (as shown below) and therefore, communicating on what to eat is a lot more difficult.

Although there are major differences in level of usage of English from place-to-place as you go, there is not a lot of difficulty in being able to quickly find your way around the city. There is an overwhelming number of tourists here and international people who come here for work. Though the colonization of Hong Kong by the British originally first brought English here, Hong Kong has risen to a major global city like New York and Los Angele. The impact of the businesses has affected the linguistic landscape, causing a need for the continued use of English in Hong Kong.

Linguistic Landscape: Brandon Bierbaum


The public use of language, especially outside of the continental US, is a very interesting subject. I have been spending my summer working in Berlin, but this past weekend I visited Brussels with my girlfriend. Being the seat of the European Union, there were some very interesting examples of varied language usage. While I was not allowed to take pictures inside the galleries of the Royal Art Museums in Brussels, I noted that the majority of important signs were listed in four languages: French, German, English, and Flemish; and that the museum maps and flyers were available in almost any EU language. While this is certainly an excellent example of multiculturalism, it is clear to anyone that it is more of a necessary business move, designed to accommodate as many tourists as possible.

The more interesting usage of language was what I saw in Berlin, and this is what I took pictures of. I found this to be somewhat of a parallel with the examples from the reading involving Chinatown (Leeman 354). Multiple cultures are intertwining, but the presence of a non-native language is symbolic as well as practical. The graffiti, advertisements, and public advisories in Berlin are almost always in both German and English. While not wholly different from the business centric motivations from the museums in Brussels, especially when looking at the telephone card advertisement, The universality of both English and German existing side by side shows how despite Berlin being the capital of Germany – a country with a storied and varied history as well as a distinct culture, the city itself is home to people of almost every background, and draws not just tourists but full time residents from every corner of the globe. This is where the differences between the employment of language in Berlin and Chinatown differ. While signage and other literature in your stereotypical US Chinatown is still largely directed towards English speakers and Americans, the usage of English in Berlin is used to draw not just people from English speaking nations together, but other expats as well. I think this is best represented by the graffiti, which is actually located right outside the international dorms I have been living in. while definitely influenced by its proximity to a lot of Americans, the progressive social message of much of the graffiti is the same, despite using both English and German to carry said message.

Another aspect brought forward by the reading was the idea of state policies mandating the use of a minority language (Leeman 358). While this might often be seen in the states through the use of both Spanish and English in certain areas, it can clearly be seen in Berlin with English and German instead. The sign pictured is found at the entrance to a local Markthalle, where local food stands and farmers from outside of the city come to sell their goods. It is a popular place among locals and visitors and can get very busy in the middle of the day. Pickpockets are relatively uncommon in Berlin, but as in any urban area are always a risk. Most of the sign is in German, especially the main part which translates to “Many thanks for your (un)attention!” This is somewhat humorous, and gets the point across very well, but would be lost on someone who doesn’t speak German. For the non-German speaker the message of the sign is still clear – look out for your personal belongings in crowded areas. While there is no actual mandate that this signage needs to be in both German and English, the government can do a better job of serving everyone in Berlin if most of the signage is Bilingual. For Berlin, this combination of language serves as more than just a smart business decision, it is necessary and critical to the social fabric of the city and unique global culture that has manifested here.

Proper Works Cited:

Leeman, Jennifer, and Gabriella Modan. “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic Landscape.”  Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 13, no. 3, 2009, pp. 332-362.

The Linguistic Landscape of Tirso de Molina

I have chosen to analyze the linguistic landscape (LL) of the area around the metro station Tirso de Molina, in the part of Madrid in which I live. While moving into my apartment, my roommate explained to me that, a few years ago, this would have been a pretty bad neighborhood to live in, but thanks to the influx of tourism in the area, it is becoming a nicer place. What she was saying was that the neighborhood is currently in the process of gentrification. A few years ago, you’d find nothing but locals here, but now, it is not uncommon to see tourists and hear languages other than Spanish. I recently heard people speaking German in a café just down the street from my apartment. When people call out to me on the street to advertise their products or get me to eat in their restaurants, they speak English. This could be because I don’t look the least bit Spanish, but it is nonetheless a testament to the regularity of having English speakers (non-locals) frequent the area. I noticed that this transition makes an interesting impact on the LL of Tirso de Molina: one can observe old signage from before gentrification in the built environment, current signage aimed at only locals, and current signage that is aimed at tourists, reflecting the recent increase in tourism and gentrification.

The old signage manifests in the built environment, and these signs appear in Spanish only, catering to locals and other Spanish speakers and not to tourists. A good example of this old signage are the street signs built into the walls of the buildings lining the streets. Take the above street sign for example: it is written in Spanish only, and it uses the Spanish address format. The proper name of the street is easy for tourists to figure out, but the format of the address is completely foreign to a tourist just passing through. The location of the sign also makes them hard to see for tourists (Americans in particular) who are used to having their street signs stick out at them. These subtle attributes of old signage point toward a LL that caters to its residents and other Spanish speakers, not the tourists that have recently been visiting the area.


Example 2: Caution Sign                 Example 3: “Keep the Street Clean” Sign

 Example 4: “For Rent” Sign

Very common in Tirso de Molina’s LL is new signage aimed at locals only. These signs are mainly informational posters stuck to the sides of buildings. They convey information that tourists would never need, so their printers never bothered to make them bilingual texts. Examine the examples above. Example 2 is to warn people entering a building that it is under construction, Example 3 is to remind people to keep the streets clean, and Example 4 is a sign advertising a space for rent. All of these signs relay important information, but this information would never be something a tourist would be interested in. These signs are aimed at locals, so they appear in Spanish only.


Example 5: Spanish/English Menu   Example 6: Spanish/English Advertisement

The final signage category is of those written in English as well as Spanish. These signs manifest in advertisements aimed to draw passersby into their restaurants or shops. These signs have a tendency to be bilingual texts with Spanish and English because the owners of the shops and restaurants recognize that their market has expanded to both locals and tourists. Creating signs in a language that the tourists feel comfortable with, despite whether or not they speak Spanish, makes them feel more comfortable with entering the establishment. The above examples also display how temporary this signage category is. Printed menus and chalkboards can be changed at a moment’s notice, making it easy for these restaurants to make the switch and advertise to locals and tourists alike.

Taking into account practical characteristics of the signs (materials they are made from and their locations, indicating how easy it would be to change them), makes it obvious as to why the signs are in the languages that they are. The signage directed towards locals are in Spanish, but the signs directed toward tourists include both Spanish and English, reflecting the recent influx of tourism in Tirso de Molina.


Works Consulted

Leeman, Jennifer, and Gabriella Modan. “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic Landscape.”  Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 13, no. 3, 2009, pp. 332-362.

Linguistic Landscape Jenny Russ

Despite Ireland’s global reputation for their loyalty to their native culture, in Dublin the traditional Irish language has taken on a purely symbolic role, with next to no functional purpose. Other aspects of traditional Irish culture are strongly preserved, such as the music and games, but linguistically, Irish has taken a backseat. While there is a clear effort to include Irish on governmentally-operated signage, it is rare to see the Irish language in other capacities and even more rare to hear it spoken in conversation. However, the inclusion of the Irish language in public signage is a nice nod to the centuries old traditions and reminds visitors and natives alike of the importance of those traditions.

The only two places you can consistently see Irish all over Dublin is on street signs and in public transportation. Every street sign has the Irish on top and the English on the bottom. Generally the Irish is in a slightly smaller font and is in italics, making the English much more visually prominent. This is similar to the English-Chinese dynamic in the second wave of Chinatown development (Leeman and Modan 352). The buses also announce every station in English and then again in Irish, and the bus stops have both languages displayed as well. However, almost everywhere else is just English. Occasionally there will be a pub or restaurant with an Irish name, but most stores have English names, English menus, and English signage. It is also extremely rare to hear Irish being spoken anywhere in Dublin. Students learn it in school, but in Dublin, almost every conversation takes place in English. These are all examples of how the Irish government has made efforts to preserve the Irish language, but outside of that realm, English is the dominant language. As English and Irish are both official languages, Ireland is officially a multilingual country, but in reality it is quite monolingual.

The structure of Dublin’s linguistic landscape is vastly different than that of D.C.’s Chinatown. While both landscapes have two main languages with English being the more dominant in both, the exploitative and commodified nature of the use of the Chinese language that has developed is not present in the use of Irish in Dublin. Irish, while primarily symbolic, is displayed because the government wants to preserve it. During much of the British occupation of Ireland, speaking Irish was illegal, and as a result, it almost died out. After independence, the government made a concentrated effort to promote the use of Irish because they considered it a “valuable cultural element worthy of preservation,” which is the exact opposite of Chinatown (Leeman and Modan 358). While both Irish and Chinese hold little functional value in their respective communities, the Irish language’s symbolic meaning comes from its cultural importance rather than cultural exploitation.

Overall, English is undoubtedly the predominant language in Dublin and across most of Ireland. In the western counties, Irish is more commonly spoken, but it certainly does not surpass English. However, by consciously including Irish in the linguistic landscape in a way that does not commercialize it, Dublin is able to save an important part of its culture.


Linguistic Landscape – John van Duyn

Dublin is a multi-cultural city, and therefore, it is a multi-lingual city. Walking down the street, you will hear every language you can possibly imagine before you have made it a couple of blocks. However, one language you will likely not hear is Irish, also known as Gaelic, the country’s native tongue and one that only has about 100,000 native speakers left. While Irish is not spoken as a first language by many people, all of the street signs and public announcements are written in both English and Irish. Like the urban planners of Washington DC’s Chinatown, the Irish government has taken a strong initiative to preserve Irish heritage and culture, and one of the ways they are doing this is keeping the Irish language alive and launching programs to encourage its growth.

This gives Dublin a unique sense of being steeped in its heritage. By maintaining the Irish language through its use in everyday things, like the names of bus stops, the city exudes a feeling of Irish-ness and a connection to the country’s cultural past. While you may not hear Irish being spoken in conversation, there are Irish words that have been adapted into the English that is spoken here, either as slang or as terms of speech. One such word is “craic,” which is used commonly not only in conversation but also in advertisements and on television programs. The word is used to mean fun. The reasoning behind the proliferation of the Irish language here is not only to preserve Irish heritage, but also to fight back against English influence. For many years, Ireland was ruled by England, and during the English occupation, Irish cultural symbols, like river-dancing or the Irish language, were banned. When Ireland gained its independence, bringing back the Irish language was seen as not only a way to keep the Irish identity alive, but also to resist the dominance that the English had had in the country for so long.

While English is the primary language here, Irish grammar and structure actually influences the way in which people speak English and the way that sentences are constructed. There is mutual intelligibility between and English speaker from Ireland and an English speaker from the United States, but some things may be said differently by an Irishman than an American. From what I have read about the grammar, Irish as a language reflects how Irish people generally behave; it is indirect and chooses to dance around a topic as opposed to getting to the heart of the matter. For instance, a pizza shop in the United States attempting to advertise it’s quality might say: “The best pizza in Chicago!” or “The best pizza in the world!” In Dublin, you can find multiple pizza shops (or restaurants more generally) that say “Probably the best pizza in Dublin!” or “Probably the coldest pints of Guinness!”

This is a small example, but reflects the influence that the Irish language still has on the way people speak and the culture of Dublin. Language is a massively important thing, and it is one of the ways in which Dublin is able to maintain its cultural identity in an increasingly globalized world. Much like Chinese language signs in Chinatown, Irish language signs serve as a “claim to the territory” and a manifestation of Irish presence. (Leeman, 343.) The city is a rich ethnic tapestry of people from all over speaking every imaginable language, but it is the Irish language that still remains as a reminder of the country’s past, present, and future.

Linguistic Landscape in Ireland – Jack

The island of Ireland has been inhabited for over 8,000 years, and with that time comes rich history and thriving culture, but also war, destruction, and oppression.  As England’s grip over the world strengthened, the Irish Resistance fought for their freedom from their hand.  To combat this, the English sought to win the battle through oppressing the one thing that made them truly different: their culture. According to Leeman and Modan, “Material realizations of language are strategic tools that are wielded in local politics, power struggles, and competing claims to space” (p.332), and that’s exactly what the English did.  For years, the Irish were not allowed to speak their language or play Gaelic games in public, in fear of British authority.  However, in 1922 Ireland became an independent state, free of tyranny, oppression, and free to be themselves.  This long period of oppression can still be seen all over Ireland in various forms.  For example, Gaelic games such as hurling, Gaelic football, and handball are extremely popular and Gaelic clubs work without a profit to bring these longstanding aspects of their culture to the forefront of the Irish upbringing.  However, the use of the Irish language, Gaeilge, is much more interesting.

While the physical landscape of Ireland is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful scenes of rolling hills and greenery on this planet, the linguistic landscape of Ireland is also dazzling.  “[Emphasizing] the importance of sociohistorical context”, the linguistic landscape or Ireland is prevalent the moment you step into the public sphere.  Ireland has two national languages, and their usage is connected, but very separate.  Gaeilge is used almost exclusively in the public sphere; it is seen on street signs as shown below, and in public transportation announcements and schedules.  However, it is always accompanied by an English translation.  Once out of the public sphere, for example exiting the bus, almost everything you see will be in English.  I have found people speak English exclusively, although everyone raised in Ireland learned both of their languages in primary school.  Gaeilge’s usage in the public sphere sheds light onto the importance of keeping a culture alive through thick and thin: the recipe for a flourishing and long-lasting nation.  For Leeman and Modan, “having one’s own language enshrined on most… government signs should contribute to the feeling that the in-group language has value and status relative to other languages (p. 334). The Irish government has taken a public stance on the importance of learning these languages, and the public does their part with their enthusiasm and wide-spread participation in the Gaelic games, furthering the traditions of their ancestors.

Earlier this week, I went on a work trip to Southern Ireland to a small city called Waterford.  There, I was tasked with handing our promotional flyers for a car park nearby.  This was the first time I had been to a large(ish) city outside of Dublin, and I was excited to experience the change in scenery and use in language.  I was not let down.  There, along with the nationwide use of the Irish languages, I found a interesting use of English.  More than a 2 hour trip through the rural part of the nation brought a sort of disconnect with other areas of the country.  I found advertisements took a crude turn common in stereotypical rural areas.  As shown below, this advertisement for a flash sale depicts a woman “flashing” a man.

Now I will admit, this may not be the most 21st-century advertisement, however, it certainly did grab my attention.  Even in a place so similar to the capital, in public use of the Irish languages and in accent and visible culture, I still found differing nuances in the linguistic landscape no matter where I went, and will continue to do so for the remainder of my time here.

The Linguistic Landscape of Berlin

The linguistic landscape of Berlin is one that communicates the growing importance of English to the German economy while holding on to the German language roots that construct the foundation of the city. Although the vast presence of the English language in Berlin is undeniable, it’s clear that the German local population puts great value in their native language.

Berlin is a city of many languages. German, of course, is the most commonly heard on the street. This is true in any neighborhood, even ones with large immigrant populations such as Kreuzberg. In areas that wouldn’t be considered ‘tourist areas’, it is relatively uncommon to have English translations on road signs or shop windows. Public transportation signs and storefronts are almost always in German. And, even when Germans are fluent in English and they are confronted with someone who is clearly an English speaker (for example, a group of Americans speaking English), that German will typically still try to speak German to them. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge the variable of public vs. private spaces, just as Leeman and Modan do (Leeman & Moden, 2009). There’s definitely a difference in the languages you’ll see and hear depending on what kind of space you’re in. In public spaces, German is very common, and there is not much English to be found. In private owned spaces, like stores or restaurants, there’s more German than English, but most people speak English and you’ll hear it more often. Most signage will be in German, but the employees and customers speak English freely. At first glance, it may appear to be a monolingual environment but it is actually a multi-lingual mixing pot. In public buildings like city museums, you’ll see lots of English, catering to tourists.

One of the most interesting things about Berlin is that when English does appear on signs, it is usually casually mixed into German. Instead of there being two separate translations of German and English, there will be one sign with the two languages mixed together. The two images attached to this blog post are examples of this. The first, a copy shop, has both German and English mixed together on the storefront. The second, a restaurant, mixes a predominantly English sign in with the German spelling of “Lebanese”. This integrated language landscape points towards how deeply rooted English has become in Berlin, with the two languages interchangeably flowing back and forth.

English has a strong hold on business life in Berlin. As Leeman and Moden explain, the shape of a linguistic landscape can tell us a lot about the power dynamics of an environment. Because of the tourism industry in Berlin and the quickly expanding tech and startup industries, the integration of the English language was inevitable. Any workplace in Berlin that has some reach beyond Germany will generally conduct itself in English. Even workplaces that only operate in the German-speaking region in Europe will speak primarily English. For example, I work at a clean-tech startup accelerator here in Berlin. Even though the accelerator only coordinates startups in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, all business is conducted in English and they only taken English language applications. At all museums or tourist sites, everything has an English translation. These are examples of the power of English in the Berlin economy. It helps connect across borders and draw in money from travellers.

The linguistic landscape of Berlin is telling or the economic and cultural conditions of the city. It is one with a large immigrant population and a young international tech industry. It is one with great pride in its native language. It is one looking to take as much advantage of tourism dollars as possible. The presence of German and English in Berlin tell a story of the way English has been integrated into Berliner life in order to advance the development of the area. The power of English as a money making tool and an international business language has allowed it to take a strong hold of Berlin. But, the native pride in the German language has ensured that whenever possible, German is used rather than English.


Works cited:


Leeman, Jennifer and Gabriella Modan. 2009. “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A contextualized approach to linguistic landscape.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, 13(3): 332-362.

Dublin Linguistic Landscapes: Rebecca Neish

Walking to work one morning I approached a curb and saw a sign painted on the edge of the road facing me. “LOOK LEFT” it said in all caps with a large arrow pointing to the direction that the traffic would flow. I stopped and indeed did look left and walked to my bus stop. While on the Dublin bus thinking about linguistics landscapes, the bus screen popped up with a reminder to use the hand rails. It displayed the words in both English and Irish. I found this to be in contrast to the road sign that seemed to indicate a country designed for foreigners who do not know the flow of traffic.  The linguistic landscape of Ireland paints a picture of a country with foreign influences infiltrating the fabric of the culture and an active desire to keep Irish traditions alive.

Irish traffic flows in the opposite direction as it does in the US and most places in the world. Because Ireland has become so diverse in the last ten years alone, the signs telling which way to look for traffic have become a part of every street side. While these warning signs do not support a multilingual community, they do support and even protect a multicultural one.

The city has made alterations to accommodate different social norms like putting reminders on the street to remind passerby’s which way to look for oncoming traffic but also have made active efforts to keep the Irish way of life alive. All the signs in Dublin transport system display the English and Irish translation of the words. Everyone in Dublin speaks English so just having English on street signs would be more than sufficient for the population to navigate the city. The Irish translation, instead acts as a reminder of something purely culturally Irish. The reading “Commodified Language in Chinatown: A Contextualized Approach to Linguistic landscape” describes this as a cultural capital that is created for Irish natives to differentiate themselves as natives to the country (Leeman, Modan). 

One might also argue the active push to keep Irish language alive is due to the symbolic economy it has provided Dublin. Because Dublin is a fast growing urban center, much of the Irish charm of the city has been phased out and replaced with structures one would find in a number of global cities. By retaining the Irish language throughout the city, it creates a themed environment, similar to the environment of Chinatown found in the reading. This themed environment allows Ireland to keep its cultural relevance that generates money from tourist looking for an authentic Irish experience (Leeman, Modan). 

Dublin is a fast growing city and is facing a conflict between accommodating a city for an outsiders use, and keeping the Irish history alive throughout the city. Road signs are completely utilitarian and point to a direction the city is going that lacks much of stereotypical Irish culture. The bus signs tell an opposite story. One that is completely un-utilitarian and there for the sole purpose of keeping the Irish language relevant. As Dublin continues to grow they will be faced with more of these budding ideas and it is up to the city to weigh the benefits and costs of keeping Irish traditions alive. 


The Dublin Linguistic Landscape – Maggie Higginbotham

Dublin, Ireland is the capital of a country that has been caught up in religious and political turmoil for much of its existence: fighting with England for its independence, fighting to keep Northern Ireland, fighting to determine its official identity, its official language and religion. At one point, this fight ripped the country in two – old, traditional, western Ireland and new, modern Ireland.  Western Ireland hosted villages known as Gaeltachts, or places where Irish is still predominantly used and spoken. Towns like this got their own special name because they were so rare. After the economic boom in the 90’s however, there was a push to reunite both sides of the Irish culture.  School children learned basic Irish in class, tourism advertisements began to include the charms of the old Irish ways, some families even sent their children to Irish classes in Gaeltachts over the summer. Even with all this, the most evident way this can be seen in the city is through the use of language on the Dublin streets.

Walk down any street in Dublin and you’ll see the same thing: signs with both Irish and English on them. You may notice one common thing about all the signs other than the language though, they are all street or PSA signs. Every street sign, every sign indicating parking time, every sign asking people to clean up their dog’s poop off the side of the street, every sign placed there by the government (local or national) is both in Irish and English. The Irish, usually placed above the English in smaller, italicized letters, appears to be largely symbolic. It’s a gesture meant to bridge the old and new Irelands together. This idea is further evidenced by the lack of visual Irish anywhere else in the city. All the shops are in English, flyers and advertisements are in English; English is used for business, for commerce, for personal and private affairs.  Despite the fact that most Irish citizens now have a basic grasp of Irish, English is the dominant language in the city, no contest.

This inclusion of Irish in Dublin appears to be a passive, top-down regulation. That being said, there are many other active uses of language throughout the city, all found in the aural landscape of the people. Dublin is clearly an international city: walk down the street, take a bus ride, sit in a restaurant long enough – you will eventually hear a language that is not your own. French and Spanish are popular languages amongst tourists here, pointing to the unique advantage members of the European Union have when it comes to travel access. Thanks to the size of the countries and their shared, or at least close, borders, European citizens often take weekend trips to different countries, bringing their own native languages with them.

This unique aspect of the larger European culture extends to another landscape not often discussed – the digital one. While on the streets the inclusion of another language may appear passive and even obligatory, on the internet language is alive and often changing. Websites from different countries often offer translation services – usually provided by Google – but more often than not, the website will offer their own translated version in five or six different languages. This speaks to the fluid nature of language in an area so easily accessed by many different cultures, and Dublin is no exception to this dynamic integration.

Overall, while English may be the more common tongue found in Dublin, Ireland stays true to itself be including Irish on street and service signs – even if its just as a gesture. While Irish is rarely heard spoken on the streets of the capital city, many other languages are represented. While Irish may have become less of a tool for communication and more of a symbolic bridge connecting the traditional Gaelic culture to the modern European one, the spoken and digital Dublin linguistic landscape is still just as vibrant and dynamic as ever.

Linguistic Landscape- Gabe Baskin

Language is an extremely powerful tool in understanding the fabric of a society. As Leeman and Modan note, “Material realizations of language are strategic tools that are wielded in local politics, power struggles, and competing claims to space” (p.332). This is true in Ireland’s capital, Dublin, where the language provides critical insight into Ireland’s culture and history. Although Ireland has two official languages, English and Irish (also referred to as Gaelic), the languages are used in very different ways, helping illustrate Dublin’s unique linguistic landscape. The use of Irish on government signage highlights a pressure from the government to perpetuate a distinctly Irish ethos while revitalizing an aspect of culture prohibited in the British ruling days; English, on the other hand, is used more frequently on a majority of signage to accommodate more people as Dublin embraces its future as a global city.



The use of Irish on signs (like the ones pictured above) has been interesting to observe, especially on an “informational” and “symbolic” level (Leeman and Modan p. 343). On an informational level, the use of Irish on signs provides evidence that the language is not dead within such a bustling and cosmopolitan city such as Dublin. In places like museums, full Irish text accompanies the English translation, not just average signs. This again shows that Irish is more than just a ceremonial language, but rather is a fully functional and conversational language. The use of Irish overwhelmingly on public and government signs provides a more layered analysis on a symbolic level. Of all the Irish I noticed in signs around the city, most are either used in government buildings or government funded areas. For example, Irish parliament, where I intern, is known by its Irish name, Dáil Éireann, and government subsidized things such as the bus and street signs utilize Irish. As Leeman and Modan note, “Having one’s own language enshrined on most private and government signs should contribute to the feeling that the in-group language has value and status relative to other languages” (p. 334). The use of Irish may be pushed by Irish government to perpetuate an aspect of Irish culture. In doing so, they may hope to bolster a sense of nationalism and Irish identity.  Furthermore, it may be a way of separating from the British after a history of British imposition. Given that Ireland gained full independence under 100 years ago, Ireland may be trying to separate socially from their former colonizers. This may be particularly true given the ongoing political tension in Northern Ireland. Using Irish may be a relic from the days of British rule and may contribute to a reluctance to completely integrate English into Irish society. Also, aspects of Irish culture, such as the Irish language, sport, and religion, were restricted during British rule. Using the language today may be a tribute to those that wanted to, but were forced not to, proudly use Irish.

Despite the history that comes with Irish, English is much more pervasive in Dublin. In recent Irish history, Ireland has benefited from low corporate tax rates, seven years of sustained economic growth known as the Celtic Tiger, and events such as Brexit that have catapulted Dublin into the forefront of European cities. Consequently, Dublin’s symbolic economy has adapted their language to accommodate the increasingly diverse and global population in the city. Concert signs, like the one pictured, along with store signs, advertisements, and many other signs are written in English. Likewise, English is the predominant language spoken; however, other languages like Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, French, and German are heard throughout the city, another testament to globalization in the city. While Irish may hold more historical and cultural significance, in the modern days of bustling business, English has taken the foreground.

In sum, Ireland’s tumultuous history with Britain and a desire to bolster Irish pride may have influenced the use of Irish on government signs, however, globalization has increasingly pressured Dublin into adopting English as the lingua franca.