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Schwarzenegger’s Bad Idea Creates a Stir Among Latino Journalists

LatinaLista — This week in San Jose, California, hundreds of Hispanic journalists are gathered to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Hispanic media is as complex as the Hispanic community — in other words, we’re not all the same. Some print appears in English only, others just Spanish. There are other publications that are bilingual.
The same goes for broadcast: English or Spanish.
Yet, all Hispanic media share a pride in our ancestral tongue regardless of our fluency and our news delivery preference.

Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger stuns the NAHJ conference attendees
(Source: NAHJ Digital)

So, you can imagine the stunned silence from the audience when special conference guest, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said out loud that if immigrants really wanted to learn English  they should stop listening to Spanish-language media.
Uhhh, no. That’s a bad idea and there’s a very simple reason why.

Putting aside shouts of ethnic pride or the unfounded criticisms that Hispanic immigrants don’t want to assimilate because they don’t want to learn English as reasons why Latino immigrants should give up Spanish-language media, the simple reason to WATCH it is that TODOS (EVERYONE) need to stay informed.
During his interview, Schwarzenegger drew upon his own immigrant experience to explain that he learned English faster simply because he hardly spoke German to anyone.
We have to wonder if it was out of necessity rather than choice that he did that.
Definitely, the situation is much different for Spanish-speakers than other language groups. Even at a time when there was no Univision or Telemundo or La Opinion or Hoy, Spanish-speakers still did not learn English as quickly or practice it with ease.
The barrios provided a haven for these Spanish-speakers where English just wasn’t necessary to get by, and when they did have to venture outside their comfort zones there was always a nieta or sobrino or hijo or comadre that spoke English for them.

But the disadvantage that those early Spanish-speaking immigrants experienced was that they had to rely on others for their news.
Spanish-language media fills that news gap, and especially in these times, it is vitally important that our communities stay informed.
It’s long been common knowledge, hence the proposed point system to evaluate job skills under debate in the immigration reform bill, that many of the Latino immigrants coming across the border are not only the poorest from their respective nations but the most illiterate.
It just makes sense that they keep watching Spanish-language media to know what is happening with our laws, in Congress, around the world and in their own local communities.
But nor should it be assumed that Spanish-language media is not doing its part to promote English to its viewers. Any casual viewer of Univision or Telemundo will see that there is an increase in commercials for English-learning DVDs and public service announcements for English-as-a-Second-Language classes.
What anyone who speaks more than one language knows: you don’t have to give up one language for the other to be a good citizen.

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  • Antonio Gonzalez
    June 15, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    It is racism. The hispanic
    media smile and do nothing.

  • coach diesel
    June 16, 2007 at 6:48 am

    I tend to agree with Dan but I’d like to see a youtube or something of the statement or audience/journalist reaction before saying they smile and do nothing. I DO think though, that journalists have a responsibility to follow-up with questions immediately and call people out on this type of stuff. Gaffe! The tenacity of the interviewer will always get better ratings so it’s a win-win situation for la media.

  • Horace
    June 16, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with Arnold. My wife is a 1st generation Korean-American. Her English language skills are being retarded by the fact that most of the people she associates with are also Korean-Americans whose language skills are frozen at a less than acceptable level. She also watches The Asia Network’s Korean channel exclusively, further hindering her English learning oportunities. Anyone who says that ESL adults learn English fails to address the natural tendency of 1st generation ESL speakers to take the path of least resistance in communicating with their fellow man. And even if they learn spoken English, ESLs generally have poor writing skills. I was the same way in Korea, where, rather than learning Korean, I relied upon my wife as translator. Those that criticize Arnold and call his views racist are in denial of the truth and do no favors for the people who they think they are defending.

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