EA LANG 39. Reading the multilingual city:
Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in Bay Area linguistic landscapes

UC Berkeley Spring 2013 Freshman & Sophomore Seminar
Course Control #: 20502
Wednesdays 2-4pm in 33 Dwinelle Hall
Instructor: David Malinowski, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar, Berkeley Language Center
B33A Dwinelle Hall
Office hours: By appointment

Course description

This seminar explores the power of visible languages in the Bay Area—the “linguistic landscape” of storefronts, street signs, billboards, and other spaces of public display. Considering such realities as the nationwide English Only movement and California’s ban against bilingual education, we will ask how meanings that are written into and read from bilingual signs relate to controversial issues of societal multilingualism, in the U.S. and beyond. Focusing on the history and present state of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in the landscape, the seminar will balance in-class discussions with off-campus field trips. Readings and guest speakers will challenge you to understand the significance of visible language through the lenses of academic fields including applied linguistics, ethnic studies, human and cultural geography, and visual culture studies. In dialog with other participants in the On the Same Page Fiat Lux program, you will produce multimedia projects on a topic of interest, while engaging questions of visual and linguistic representation in your own work. Although fluency in Chinese, Korean, Japanese or other languages is not required, this seminar will offer numerous opportunities for those of you who are currently enrolled in a language course to enrich and extend your language study.

This seminar is part of the On the Same Page initiative. EALANG 39 may be used to satisfy the Social and Behavioral Sciences breadth requirement in Letters and Science.

What you will get out of this seminar

  • The chance to discuss, think and grow in a seminar environment
  • The chance to explore your interests through a topic that intersects with multiple areas and majors at Cal
  • An introduction to the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages as they appear around us
  • The opportunity to better understand the diversity, character, and life of Berkeley and surrounding cities
  • The ability to develop online, portable projects that give you practice in using representational tools for future classes
  • The chance to build awareness and practice basic qualitative (interpretive) research methods
  • The opportunity to develop critical reading, writing, and seeing abilities, and to answer the question: What’s behind the signs?

Required texts and materials

Course Reader: A smaller-size reader will be available from Metro Publishing (2440 Bancroft Way, near the Wells Fargo below Telegraph) in Week 2 of the semester. Other readings will be handed out in class or available online. To participate in class, you will need to bring the reader and any other assigned readings to class for every on-campus meeting of our class.

Notebook and camera: Throughout your everyday routine, you will be asked to take photos of examples of language in public places, and to annotate these photos. Make a habit of carrying a small notebook and a digital camera/cell phone camera with you. Please discuss with me if you don’t have access to these tools.

Online class tools: Throughout the semester, you will create multimedia posts through your own blog  via Edublogs (, share images through Flickr (, and utilize other sites for multimedia work and discussion. Please choose an online identity for these semi-public sites that a.) you feel comfortable with sharing and b.) can likely be used across a small number of platforms.

AC Transit class pass: We will generally take the bus for a small number of field trips over the course of the semester. Please make sure you have your AC Transit fast pass sticker (or access to a car).

Fiat Lux. As a freshman and sophomore seminar, we will be dialoging with other UCB classes participating in in this year’s On The Same Page project, Fiat Lux. The 2012 Facsimile Edition of Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall’s 1968 book envisioning the past and future of UC is available as a .pdf here: Please download and spend some time reviewing the book as well as the OTSP website:

Activities and assignments

1. Readings & in-class discussion (approximately 1.5 hours every week): On average, we will have 25-50 pages of readings per week, in academic, news, and other genres. Every week, I will assign 1 or 2 main readings (and, depending on the week, supplementary online materials) that introduce new concepts related to course themes, give background to discussion topics, describe the places we are visiting, etc. You will be responsible for reading and responding to questions about these online before our seminar meetings (see below). In-class discussion will draw upon everyone’s online postings, and will be facilitated by student discussion leaders in pairs or small groups. Active listening and discussion—both in class and online—are basic requirements to receive a “Pass” in this class.

2. Photography and field note-taking (30 mins/wk): Linguistic landscape is everywhere around us, all day, every day. Every week this semester, as you go about your everyday routines, you’ll have a specific question or topic related to the visible languages of public places, to think about and keep an eye out for. You’ll observe, record, and annotate your observations and incorporate these into your online posting and class discussion.

3. Online reflections and discussion (2 hrs/wk)

3a. Reading response (10x): An ongoing chronicle of your experiences in this seminar, our blogs* are where we will synthesize our responses to class topics and readings, on one hand, and our observations and reflections on our study of the linguistic landscape, on the other. You will be using your blog for composing, commenting, and adding resources more than once a week; specific schedule and guidelines will be announced in class. (*I will be blogging on the same schedule on the course blog)

3b. Re-representation projects (5x): Since this class, like others involved in Fiat Lux, poses questions about the arbitrary and sometimes biased representations of places and people in popular media and culture, we will actively critique existing representations of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other languages and cultures as they are evident in everyday U.S. and Berkeley landscapes. Then, in response, we will produce our own representations. These will include short written essays, photo essays, collaborative mapping, digital stories, and other means of audio, visual, and written expression.  Note: The preparation and writing of these mini projects will happen via your blogs; doing and reflecting on them on your blog will be your assignment for that week.

Midterm: None.

Final exam: None.


Discussion, presentation, and being present are everything for a seminar. On-time arrival and regular attendance is expected. Please discuss any probable absences with me beforehand. Missing more than 3 seminars and/or frequent late arrivals will jeopardize your ability to participate fully and earn a “Pass” in this class.

In-class participation

Seminars are a great opportunity to learn not just from the instructor and official materials, but from the opinions and experiences of other participants. Active listening and speaking, mutual respect and risk-taking, patience and initiative with respect to all participants are required.

Individual media use (cell phones, computers, etc.) is not allowed at any time during group or whole-class discussions. There will be a computer available for projection; anyone is welcome to use this if discussion warrants it. Individual computers may be used during project-related pair or group work.

There will be a short break (5-7 minutes) in the middle of seminar meetings held in the classroom.

Research component

In line with the “public” theme and nature of this class, we have the opportunity to share our opinions, findings, and projects with other classes at Berkeley, and with people and forums outside of Berkeley who are interested in our topic. This includes the opportunity to represent and have our work represented in academic venues (conference, publication) that are furthering the study of linguistic landscape. All members of the seminar, including the instructor, will be asked to participate and to consent to the sharing of work that they deem appropriate for sharing with these communities. Note: participation in research is not required to fully participate in, or to pass, the class.


This seminar is graded on a Pass/Non-Pass (= below 70% score) basis. Grades will be determined as follows:

  • Attendance, in-class discussion and participation ———– 30% (2%/wk)
  • Field work (photo uploads, annotation, field note-taking) –  15% (1%/wk)
  • Online composition and discussion ————————— 30% (2%/wk)
  • “Re-representation” projects ———————————– 25% (5% ea.)



The seminar is divided into five segments of three weeks each. In each segment, we take up a new topic and set of questions; we focus on a different language or group of languages; we learn about and travel to a different neighborhood in and near Berkeley; we study different kinds of representations of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese languages and cultures, and carry out our own “re-representation” projects. The topics are as follows:

Topic 1 (Weeks 1-3): Does visible multilingualism matter in Berkeley, and why? (The politics of cultural representation in the linguistic landscape)

  • Larger goals for these weeks: Understanding what we can learn from paying attention to visible multilingualism in public places: How society, culture, and identity are read from, and produced by the linguistic landscape
  • Places we’ll be: UCB campus and surrounding area
  • Language(s) in focus: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and the many languages of Berkeley

Topic 2 (Weeks 4-6): Where can you find “authentic” Chinese? (Reading one and many identities, histories, and voices in the Berkeley linguistic landscape)

  • Larger goals for these weeks: Learning to read multiple voices, histories, and worldviews in (or hinted at in) the individual signs and establishments that we can see in Berkeley and surrounding places. Developing multiple perspectives on cultural “authenticity”
  • Places we’ll be: The neighborhoods of Berkeley (Week 5 visit to Solano Ave.)
  • Language in focus: Chinese

Topic 3 (Weeks 7-9): Do the Korean signs on Telegraph speak for the individual, or for the nation? (The role of linguistic landscape in marking and making “ethnic towns”)

  • Larger goals for these weeks: Building upon our reading of identity and authenticity in individual establishments (shops, restaurants, etc.), investigate in detail the ways in which linguistic landscape plays a part in determining the identity of larger places: neighborhoods, districts, “ethnic towns”
  • Places we’ll be: Temescal and other Oakland neighborhoods (Week 8 visit)
  • Language in focus: Korean

Topic 4 (Weeks 10-12): Japan everywhere and nowhere in America? (On the mobility of cultural forms in the symbolic marketplace)

  • Larger goal for these weeks: Investigate how cultural symbols (focusing on language) are mobilized, recontextualized in a global context
  • Places we’ll be: Small group visits to Japanese businesses and cultural agencies
  • Language in focus: Japanese

Topic 5 (Weeks 13-15): Putting the signs back in place: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in the ecology of Berkeley’s visible and invisible languages

  • Larger goal for these weeks: Carry out individual projects that synthesize earlier findings and evolving perspectives on linguistic landscape.

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