update -- English-only rules Univision's Spanish-language presidential debate

Dennis Baron debaron at UIUC.EDU
Mon Sep 10 02:34:45 UTC 2007

Now that the debate has aired, there's an updated version of this  
post, with more pix and analysis of breaking news...

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

English-only rules Univision's Spanish-language presidential debate

On Sunday, Sept. 9, the Univision cable network and the University of  
Miami host the first Democratic presidential debate aimed  
specifically at Hispanic voters, and although the participants will  
be required to answer questions in English, those questions will be  
asked in Spanish, making this an event likely to enrage the English- 
only crowd, which strongly opposes any public display of Spanish.

Historically, opposition to languages other than English in the  
United States has been a veiled attack on immigrants (including as  
foreigners in their own land both Native Americans and Spanish  
settlers who came to the New World before the Anglos).

With immigration a hot-button issue in the current presidential race,  
language-waving has become the equivalent of flag-waving, because  
it’s not always politically correct to say, “I hate you, go back  
where you came from,” especially on national TV, but it’s OK to say,  
“We speak English. So should you, if you know what I mean?”

Seeing and hearing other languages makes monolingual English speakers  
want to market their own language more insistently to nonanglophones  
or to wrap it in legal protections.  Earlier this year Newt Gingrich  
suggested that Spanish was the language of the ghetto, while English  
was the language of money.  That was before the housing bubble burst  
and the dollar began to plunge.

If English won’t guarantee riches, then at least it will keep the  
country in one piece, say English-only supporters.  Adding to the  
fear that immigrants and their languages, most of them perceived to  
be illegal, are turning one nation into many, and that English is the  
only thing that can keep our increasingly-fragile union whole, the  
ever-eloquent Tom Tancredo proclaimed during the CNN Republican  
debate, “We need that thing to hold us together.”


Find out more about the great Univision debate
on the Web of Language


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321


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