03 February 2014

In which the language nerd...and proud American...in me rejoices





This was the clear winner, in my mind, for best Superbowl commercial this year.  I'm distressed, but not surprised, at the vitriolic backlash that it has received on social media and in the press.  Let me tell you why I loved it...and the one fault I found in it...

In spite of what is apparently popular opinion, the United States of America does not have an official language.  I will give you a moment for that to sink in.  English, therefore, is NOT the official language of the United States of America.  In fact, recent statistics show that English is spoken by 80% of the population, not 95% as in the United Kingdom where they DO recognize English as the de facto official language (and make you pass an English Language test to live there).

What makes me so proud of my country is the ability for people to come here from other countries and love this nation as their own while still being able to keep their language and culture of origin fairly intact.  While I know that those outside of the USA may look at that statement and scoff, it is true in some parts of the USA.

There are voices, at times LOUD voices, that disagree and would like for the USA to be a bit more homogeneous...more English speaking...dare I say more white?  But I would like to say to anyone thinking of visiting or relocating to my country that those opinions are not shared by all of us.

The places shown in the commercial last night were clearly chosen due to the fact that in those areas, there are higher concentrations of immigrant populations who speak Spanish, Hindi, Tagalog, and even native languages that were here before the English speaking explorers arrived.  Why shouldn't they be able to express their love for their country in the language of their birth and heritage?  Seriously?  Am I the only one that got the point, that this commercial represents what America is at its very heart?

Be sure to click on the link above to watch the commercial and then watch the interviews with each of the language representatives heard in the commercial.  This speaks to the language nerd in me as well as the interpreter...the meaning is the point, not the language or culture.

The fault I found?  No ASL.  American Sign Language is the fifth most used non-English language in the United States.  And yet, it is left off, again.  My second language and, by association, my adopted culture is often left out...did anyone that was only watching the Superbowl on television see the ASL translation of the national anthem? Three or four signs maybe.  But I'm growing accustomed to that being the norm.  Doesn't mean I think it is right and I hope that it will change.

If you're one of the ones "disgusted" or "outraged" by the Coca-Cola commercial (literally, people are saying those specific words and worse...have a look at Coke's Facebook page and Twitter feed) or you are thinking of boycotting the product, take a moment and look at your own family tree.  I bet you'll find branches that came to this country, eager to live in and experience and love "America the Beautiful" even though they may have had to express that sentiment in a different way.  Was their love for this country any less because they spoke a different language?  No.  Absolutely not.

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