Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

What if Sarah Palin had to debate in English and Spanish?

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Originally published on on Tue, 10/14/2008 – 9:06am

“Paquete de seis de Joe”
“las mamás de hockey”
“Autonomía energética”
“taladro, bebé, taladro”

These phrases would be crucial for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin if she were going to debate in Spanish. You might recognize some of them, but let’s translate them for you (from left to right): maverick, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms, energy independence, and drill, baby, drill.

In the United States, we only have debates in English, even though we have a significant Spanish-speaking population. But in countries such as Canada, the leaders are required to debate in the two official languages, English and French.

And unlike in the U.S., the English language debate isn’t always the easier one for some of the Canadian leaders. Liberal leader Stephane Dion and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and both natural French speakers. Conservative leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May are natural English-language speakers.

But all of them have to thrive in both languages to be the leader of Canada.

In today’s Canadian federal election, speakers of both major languages have heard from their potential leaders in their native tongue. And they are sufficiently bilingual, then they know if the leaders say different things in different languages.

Yes, Canadians do wrestle with language issues, but there is the confidence that the leaders can speak to them in their native language. Despite what the current occupant thinks of his Spanish language abilities, our leaders don’t work in terms of conveying to this segment of the population in their native language.

But it would help if our leaders knew enough of a langauge used in quite a significant bit of the population. I’ve heard Obama speak in Spanish with Bill Richardson, but often these are learned phrases to convey some knowledge.

Most world leaders find it necessary to communicate in their own language(s) as well as English. Since we are part of the world, it might be nice to blend in better.

Perhaps if John McCain knew Spanish, he might not get Spain mixed up as being in Latin America.

If Sarah Palin knew Spanish, she would have an idea that there is more to America than Alaska.

And this isn’t to let Obama and Joe Biden off the hook. In going after Hispanics at election time, it would be nice to throw in some Spanish, not so much that Hispanics don’t know English, but to make them feel like their leaders have some understanding as to their situation.

The ability for a U.S. president to speak more than one language in an ever-shrinking world would make us more viable in diplomacy and understanding of the peoples that make up this planet. Imagine if we had a U.S. president who spoke Russian in 1972 or Arabic in 2002. Or even a Spanish-language speaking president anytime.

Extra: TV Barn’s Aaron Barnhart comments on the Canadian debates on WBAL Radio (Baltimore)


Written by democracysoup

October 14, 2008 at 9:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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