How to say “spoken cafe” in Australia? 

You’ve probably heard the term before, but where does it come from? 

What’s the definition? 

Well, in a nutshell, it’s a cafe where the staff speak a language other than English. 

There are many ways of doing this. 

Some may use a sign outside the cafe that tells you the time, or use a small sign that says “Speak”, or even an actual sign. 

But in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary, it all boils down to a word spoken.

What does it mean?

You can define spoken cafes as being anywhere where the language spoken is not English, or where there are no staff who speak English.

In Australia, the language is spoken by approximately 300,000 people, of whom approximately 1.4 million speak English as their first language.

But there are also spoken cafes in other countries, such as the US, Canada, Britain and Australia. 

What about restaurants? 

There’s a growing number of restaurants where staff speak English to customers.

For example, there are a number of Australian restaurants that have signage that indicates they’re serving English as the language of the restaurant, such to New York, London, and Sydney.

Are there other types of spoken cafes? 

Yes, there is, and there are many that serve English as a second language. 

However, not all spoken cafes are spoken in a way that is designed to draw in customers. 

A cafe with no sign is called a spoken cafe.

There are also café-like cafés that have signboards outside, but the staff are not bilingual and can only speak English, French, or Spanish. 

Can you get fined for using a cafe that’s not in English? 

No, the law is very clear on this point.

If a café is located on a property and its signage does not clearly identify it as being a café, then the cafe is not a café.

However, there have been cases where people have been fined for breaching the law, including an Australian woman who was fined for breaking the law by making a café outside of a school. 

Does it make sense to speak to customers in a café that’s written in a foreign language? 

Not necessarily.

A cafe can still be a spoken café if there is signage outside that clearly identifies it as a café and the cafe does not have staff who only speak the language in which the café is held.

It is also possible to have signage inside that clearly states that the cafe has been built in a language that is not your native language, but you are allowed to speak in that language if you are in a cafe with a sign that clearly indicates that the café does not contain signage that says ‘English Only’.

What’s different about spoken cafes versus spoken restaurants? 

 There are a lot of different types of cafes, some of which are spoken and some of them are not.

While most cafés are not used for dining, many are catering, and many offer free meals for groups.

Some cafés may also be used for teaching and socialising, or for special occasions.

Is it ok to use a café for food? 

Absolutely, as long as the cafe itself does not include any food on its menu.

You could, for example, have a café where people only eat in the café, or you could have a cafe for private events where there is no food on the menu. 

You can even have a coffee shop where you can buy coffee for the whole cafe. 

How do I know if a café has a spoken or spoken café? 

The signage inside a café or café-type cafe is typically written in the language you are speaking.

When the cafe or café is closed, you will see a sign reading “Speaks only”. 

The staff at a café will often not speak in their native language.

It’s best to ask staff for their first and last names and then ask for their preferred language, or if it is the preferred language you speak. 

Do I have to use English at all times? 

If you are not speaking in your native tongue, you may need to use an interpreter.

The Australian Government has guidelines that outline how to use the spoken and spoken languages in Australian businesses. 

Should I use an English sign for a café?

Yes, you should always use a spoken English sign if the cafe you are visiting has one.

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