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May 17, 2007

International Banking at Wachovia

When I saw this screen at the Wachovia on Hillsborough Rd. in Raleigh, I thought, "Man, NC State must have even more Chinese grad students than I thought."  Then I saw the same screen options in Durham.

Any guesses on what prompted the addition?  Is this a national thing, or have I missed the explosion of Chinese-speaking* people in the Triangle?

And in similar things, what's the most languages you've ever seen on an ATM screen?  Would love to hear comments from blog readers in New York and San Francisco.


*did you know that Cantonese and Mandarin sound different but read the same?  Me, neither.  Oh, and I keep forgetting that I'm ~1/6th Chinese.  Maybe that's why I'm always eating at Rainbow on Main St. in Durham.

01:47 AM in Seen | Permalink


NYC reader here.

Citibank, where my wife has her personal and business accounts, has at least seven or eight language options at their New York ATMs.

I think Bank of America, where I bank (and where we have our joint account) just has two: English and Spanish.

Not all that long ago, on my way to a Malaysian restaurant in (NYC) Chinatown that didn't take credit cards and needing cash, I stopped at an ATM in a small store and was flummoxed to find that it was a multilingual, but Asian languages only, device (Chinese, Korean, and something rendered in a modified, accented Roman alphabet that I'm betting was Vietnamese.)

Thank God the PIN entry sequence is nearabout universal, and a friendly bilingual person in the store quickly translated "checking" and "withdrawal" for me... it was quite an experience finding myself suddenly completely illiterate.

Posted by: Barry Campbell | May 18, 2007 4:19:08 AM

I'm guessing that, yeah, there probably is a rising chinese-speaking population. (yes, i did know about the writing system overlap)

A couple of years ago I interviewed with the OC human rights and relations office, and some of the interview questions were regarding how I'd handle the non spanish-speaking minority communities (which were apparently Asian, though I'm not certain specifically which communities had been identified as growing)

Posted by: Stew | May 18, 2007 10:18:51 AM

Stew -- hey hey, of course I should have know that you would know!

Barry -- wow, that's something. For an English speaker in the US to need help to use an ATM. Now and then I help some Spanish-speakers with other machines around here (like the postage stamp machine). (I also notice that even when the machines have Spanish text, they also have occasional customers who are illiterate.)

Posted by: Phil | May 18, 2007 2:20:28 PM

My understanding is that while the many spoken Chinese dialects are mutually unintelligible, the written language is the same for everyone. Also, the writing has been similar enough over the centuries that it's possible for a modern reader to read and understand texts that are thousands of years old. I think that's pretty cool.

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas | May 19, 2007 4:08:41 PM

I've noticed that ATMs in San Francisco sometimes have Chinese in addition to English and Spanish. Next time you need a cleaver we'll check the ATMs in Chinatown, where I'd bet that the ads displayed by the machines in standby mode are all in Chinese. Because SF is a pretty small place, and because there are oodles of tourists everywhere, all ATMs still speak English I think.

My favorite usability exercise is to use a bank's ATM once in English, and then see if I can repeat / recognize all the steps when I do it a second time a week later in Chinese.

Posted by: Dave | May 23, 2007 4:30:44 PM