Watch your Language!

Stan & Sandy Anonby stan-sandy_anonby at
Mon Feb 9 18:58:51 UTC 2004

I think it's commendable for folks, including politicians, to try out other
languages.  It's a boost for languages other than English, even if mistakes
are made.  I believe it's wrong to have the attitude that you've got to say
something perfectly, or say it in English.  Fact is, most of us who speak
Spanish, or another second language, will always make mistakes.  Any coward
can sound really cool in their own native language, and it's a cheap gift to
ridicule those who have the courage to speak in a second language -
especially in public.

Stan Anonby

----- Original Message -----
From: "Felicia Briscoe" <FBriscoe at>
To: <lgpolicy-list at>
Sent: Sunday, February 08, 2004 6:43 PM
Subject: RE: Watch your Language!

> I agree with you in terms of public speaking done by politicians.  And
> politicians are doing is indeed pandering and at the same time
> But I would hate people to generalize from this.
> In private, I think for those who speak sub- or non-Berlitz in any
> should be encouraged to speak so as to improve their ability to
> in that language, which of course isn't the goal of politician.  What
> Chicanas who speak Spanglish or Tex Mex.  Should they be discouraged from
> speaking.  Anyway who made Berlitz the arbitrator of "proper" Spanish.
> being said, I agree totally with you about the Politicians and their use
> Spanish.  Did this all start with Kennedy and his "Ich bin Berlinner?"
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Harold F. Schiffman [mailto:haroldfs at]
> Sent: Saturday, February 07, 2004 12:17 PM
> To: Language Policy-List
> Subject: Watch your Language!
> >From the Philadelphia Enquirer,  Posted on Sat, Feb. 07, 2004
> Unconventional Wisdom | Watch your language!
> In trying to wrangle Latino votes, presidential candidates often mangle
> Spanish.
> By Tanya Barrientos
> Inquirer Columnist
> I don't know who decided that the men who would be president couldn't get
> to the White House without speaking Spanish. Somehow, bumbling through
> phrases en espanol has become standard political procedure, like kissing
> babies and slapping backs at the local diner. This week, the Democrats
> descended on Arizona and New Mexico con ganas of impressing the local
> Latino population.
> Ay caramba! The things they did to the language of my ancestors! Former
> Vermont Gov. Howard Dean addressed a crowd in Albuquerque, N.M., calling
> them "mis amigos y mis amistades," which translates to "my friends and my
> friendships." "Nosotros juntos!" cheered Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich,
> thinking he was paraphrasing the very American phrase "all of us
> together." But in Spanish, what he said simply translates into a
> grammatical car wreck.
> Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry leaned on his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to
> do his Spanish speaking. She is fluent in five languages. And retired Gen.
> Wesley Clark pulled out the few palabras he learned during his time in the
> military. To be fair, this flirtation is bipartisan. President Bush is
> prone to pepper some sound bites with his own Tex-Mex favorites.
> It's hardly the first time that politicians eager to show they're down
> with minority issues have waded into treacherous linguistic waters. Many
> years ago, when I was a reporter in Dallas, I heard a City Council
> candidate tell a group of Mexican American voters, "Necesito su pollo."
> Which means he needed their chicken.
> What he meant to say was that he needed their apoyo - which means
> "support." In various parts of the country, candidates could attempt their
> slogans in Chinese, Polish or Yiddish. But Spanish seems to be the ethnic
> language du jour, and every flag-waving wannabe is trying it on for size.
> Hey, I know running for office is all about putting on a show. Donning the
> hard hat in front of the Teamsters. Eating the gumbo in New Orleans.
> Standing beside the fighter jet at the Air Force base.
> So be it.
> But please tell me which pundit determined that Latinos would think better
> of a given candidate if he spoke bad Spanish? Imagine what American Idol
> judge Simon Cowell would say if the candidates performed their rickety
> Spanish acts in front of him: "If the future of international trade
> depended on your performance, we'd never drink tequila again!"
> Come to think of it, that probably would get more viewership than a dry
> debate. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad Latinos wield political clout. I'm
> glad the candidates are making an effort, and I have nothing against them
> producing Web sites and campaign literature in Spanish.
> But here's the thing.
> Using sub-Berlitz espanol to connect with us as a group is condescending
> at worst, and ridiculous at best. Here's my advice. Go ahead and eat the
> taco. Whack the pinata at the rally. We'll enjoy the show. But for
> goodness sake, after you slip on that sombrero, just address the issues in
> English and move along.
> Por favor!
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> Contact columnist Tanya Barrientos at 215-854-5729 or
> tbarrientos at

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