[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: GOP Debate in Spanish

Saturday, December 08, 2007

GOP Debate in Spanish

Tomorrow night here in Miami, the GOP presidential candidates square off in yet another debate. The big deal about this debate is the fact that it is hosted by Univision and it will be translated into Spanish for the benefit of its viewers.

I'm happy that the GOP candidates (save Tom "Miami is Third World" Tancredo) finally agreed to participate. It's about time Hispanics get to hear honest talk about illegal immigration. Chances are the majority of viewers won't like what they hear, but as I like to say:

"Oh well."

I have to admit that, despite being bilingual and supportive of efforts to promote bilingualism, deep inside I feel a little resentment towards Univision and those U.S. Hispanics who demand that debates be broadcast in Spanish. I feel dirty for thinking and writing this, but I have to hold my nose and agree with Tancredo that all U.S. citizens should speak English. It's simply a matter of respect, is how I see it.

Where folks like Tancredo and I disagree is in the degree in which one learns English and retains their heritage. I get the impression that Tancredo and other xenophobes out there expect people to arrive in this country, forget all of where they came from, and learn English on the spot. After all, isn't that what the immigrants of the early 20th century did? (No, of course not, but that's another topic for another day). As previous posts here have alluded to, Hispanic immigrants eventually learn English, whether poorly or otherwise, and their kids end up speaking better English than Spanish. Therefore, all this xenophobic bluster about English being the official (read: only) language of the United States is much ado about nada.

Where I feel a little conflicted is in the fact that Mexican-owned networks such as Univision take advantage of Americans' spirit of inclusiveness and start making demands that Spanish be given equal time in the United States. I have no problem whatsoever with networks such as Univision and Telemundo, and their local affiliates, broadcasting programming in Spanish. It's a choice and it's great that we can be exposed to different cultures and languages, as well as provide information to a large segment of the population that doesn't yet have good command of English. It's in the demand that Univision cut across demographic lines and broadcast a U.S. presidential debate in Spanish where they cross the line. If Univision would have decided to broadcast the entire thing in English, with subtitles instead of spoken translation into Spanish, I would applaud that as the respectful and truly inclusive thing to do.

Hispanics of all countries and colors who believe and demand that people should speak to them in Spanish in the United States are just plain rude. One thing is to not be able to speak fluent English for various and valid reasons without making demands that they be spoken to in Spanish, and another is to expect Americans to cover their language deficiencies.

To these folks, and to Univision, it appears that bilingualism is a one way street. Let's not forget that to be bilingual is to speak Spanish AND English.

If you don't speak good English, or if you don't speak English at all, that's perfectly fine. Many of my older relatives speak or spoke little if any English. Just don't push around the vast majority of Americans who speak our common language, which is English.

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