A pair of bilingual signs and their troubles in Mannheim

C_8geWTVwAAKQgSThe ‘Deutsche Welle’ reports a story which appeared originally in ‘Die Welt‘:

“A McDonald’s in the German city of Mannheim caused a stir on social media on Wednesday after customers discovered a pair of signs in both Turkish and German. The two signs, the franchise owner said, were meant to be inclusive for all his customers.

The only problem was that the sign in Turkish directed customers to a location in a seedier part of the city, while the sign in German pointed customers in the direction of a wealthier district.”

The owner of the franchise apologized, said he did not mean to discriminate and “added that he had asked a Turkish firm to make up the signs.”

What I found interesting was the comments section in the original story, as it was reported in “Die Welt”. Most of the commentators thought that the reaction was unjustified, since people who reside in Germany, should, in their opinion, learn German and be able to read and communicate fluently in the language of the country; the sign in Turkish was, therefore, for these commentators, superfluous to begin with. Many commented that this was just another opportunity for Turks in Germany to complain and pretend they are victims of discrimination, whereas they themselves (the German commentators) felt discriminated against when a sign was put up in a foreign language in their own country; some also pointed out that they felt discriminated against on behalf of the many foreign nationalities who were not as lucky as the Turks to be represented among the sign languages. Many complained for the characterization of parts of the town as ‘good’ vs. ‘shady’. But virtually nobody saw a problem in the signs.

I think what the comments failed to notice was that the signs, if followed by a German-speaking and Turkish-speaking potential clientele respectively, appear to actively encourage some sort of segregation by pointing to different stores for each customer group. In today’s Germany such an effort seems however a bit absurd, not to mention that from a commercial point of view it would be a terrible business initiative. Assuming therefore that the owner acted in good faith, my interpretation is that both signs are addressing primarily a bilingual audience, the Turkish-German one, who would be in a position to read and understand both of them. If these bilingual people constitute the primary clientele for McDonald’s, then the owner simply tried to flatter his customers.

I would be the first to cry wolf, but I had a look at the Twitter account that did cry wolf. The account, created in March 2017, is entitled “Türkische Diaspora in Deutschland. Organisiert und entschlossen gegen die antitürkischen Bewegungen” (“Turkish Diaspora in Germany. Organized and decisive against anti-Turkish movements”). They sound a bit conspiratorial and they tweet an awful lot in favour of the current Turkish government and against PKK. In their tweet on this affair they dubbed it immediately as segregation (‘Rassentrennung’). Under the circumstances, it seems rather ironic that a patron who went the extra mile for his Turkish-speaking and -reading clients was denounced by a Twitter account that supposedly monitors anti-Turkish moves.

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