UO Spanish Professor Suggests Ways to Make Bilingual Signs Inclusive in Downtown Eugene

May 20, 2020

An example of a sign in Downtown Eugene that Devin Grammon used in his presentation. Compared to the English typography in black, the use of orange typography for the Spanish section of the sign is harder to see from a distance.
Credit Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC News

For non-English speakers, a lack of signs representing their native language could prevent residents from coming to downtown Eugene. But a UO Spanish linguistics class looked at ways to make downtown signs more inclusive.

UO Assistant Professor of Spanish Sociolinguistics Devin Grammon presented his recommendations to the City of Eugene. One of his suggestions was to use signs with proper Spanish grammar and more accurate translations.

“For example, this translation of no trespassing as ‘No entrar ilegalmente,’ which could literally be ‘Don’t enter illegally,’ said Grammon. “While this is definitely a good translation of no trespassing in a very literal sense, of course, it has the unfortunate use of illegal and it's ‘ilegal.’ Which of course is a very charged term right now when we talk about the criminalization of Latino identities and of Spanish.”

An example of a welcoming sign or mural in Downtown Eugene that Devin Grammon used in his presentation. The sign depicts people from various ethnicities who speak multiple languages.
Credit Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC News

Grammon’s recommendations also include equally representing English and Spanish with similar typography to equally represent multiple languages on signs.

When possible, English and Spanish should appear in the same font and size,” said Grammon. “Font color for Spanish should be equally visible as it is for English. And also that more signage should place the Spanish text in more prominent positions within the sign—positions that it doesn't typically occupy. So for example, having Spanish above English, draws attention to the fact that Spanish is here.”

Grammon’s recommendations also include creating more welcoming signs in addition to ones about monitoring or prohibiting certain behaviors.