Wednesday, August 03, 2011

We No Speak Americano

Televisa's Joaquin Lopez Doriga displayed his lack of knowledge of English while conducting an interview to Anthony Hopkins

By Robert Valencia

With globalization drawing us closer and closer, traditional means of communication such as newspapers, television, and Internet now provide content in several languages, particularly those who are widely spoken like English and Spanish. For instance, CNN and BBC, the world’s most popular English-speaking broadcasters, host popular non-English programming by way of CNN en Español and BBC Mundo, whereas Al-Jazeera, a pan-Arabic network, has also entered the international arena by catering to English-speaking audiences. Each of them has been successful in their own way.

Perhaps part of their success in their programming is largely due to the fact that these networks make use of native speakers on the language they intend to broadcast, in order to be culturally and linguistically aware. Case in point: Al Jazeera relies upon signature names such as David Frost for their English line-up, or CNN en Espanol recruits Spanish-speaking journalists and news anchors. But what of the media outlets from Latin America when it comes to delivering content in languages other than Spanish? Truth to be told, the options are very scarce. 

There have been some attempts at providing content in English from within Latin America, for example, The Santiago Times  is one of the very few newspapers that offer English content. Likewise, some Latin American broadcasters like Colombia’s RCN are tapping into the market when Brian Andrews joined the news team a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, he received some death threats that forced him to move out of the country, yet that didn’t deter the channel to carry on its English content with the help of bilingual journalists from Colombia. Notwithstanding, RCN and its sister news channel NTN 24  have been recently the center of jokes on Twitter and Facebook, particularly from their nationals, because of the journalists’ grammatical errors in their sentences and notable Colombian accent. 

Also, Mexico’s Televisa (see video above) did not escape the criticism of not mastering the language of Shakespeare. Joaquín López Dóriga, arguably the most emblematic anchorman in Mexico, encountered a very uncomfortable situation when Anthony Hopkins, who was visiting Mexico to promote his movie “The Rite,” did understand neither the scant English vocabulary of Dóriga nor the simultaneous translation on the tiny device that was placed behind Hopkins ears. Such incident ignited a slew of “memes” on YouTube with the tag “Juay The Rito” a phonetic attempt from Doriga to say “Why The Rite.” 

It is known that Latin America lags behind its worldwide counterparts when it comes to the number of inhabitants who can speak a second language. As hilarious these TV incidents can be, this is somehow a mere reflection of this fact. If Latin American broadcasters wish to keep up with other international networks that have incorporated high-quality English programming, now is the time to deliver real content that will pick the interest of audiences overseas as they hone in the skills of today’s lingua franca.

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