Let’s be honest, at one point in your life, you have tried speaking in British, Australian and probably even Boston accents. Everyone can say “bloody hell,” “shrimp on the barbie” and “park the car in Harvard yard,” but what comes to mind when someone tells you to speak like an American? Do we hold a standard for the average “American” language, phrases and accents?
Recently, an Arizona news anchor, Vanessa Ruiz, was under the American eye for pronouncing English words with a Spanish flare over national television. Believe it or not, American newscasters have actual lives and diverse backgrounds outside of the hour they spend delivering the nation’s news.
Newscasting, as well as the fairly common “narrowcasting,” is very typical for standard American television today. The pressure we put on these individuals is quite insane. To become a broadcast journalist, one must take many public speaking courses, memorize speeches and learn etiquette to understand the need to attract viewers. Media, especially television, is a product. The broadcasters and anchors are the businessmen and women trying to sell information to consumers.
Ruiz, originally from Miami, was raised in a bilingual family, growing up in both American and Spanish-influenced culture. Prior to working in Arizona on-air, she worked for Telemundo, a Spanish media company, then in Los Angeles with KNBC.
It was said that there have been complaints from viewers troubled by the way she says Spanish words such as “mesa” and “casa grande” as a native would according to Cordova. Recently, in the state of Arizona in particular, bilingual education has been banned, with some exceptions, and the state court system is currently processing laws to further ban courses with ethnic and bilingual foundations, according to Tod Perry. Demographically, the Southwestern states generally have a higher Spanish immigrant population. In this case, the potential ban of bilingual courses can be detrimental to legal Spanish-American students. These acts return to the question, do we as citizens try to Americanize media and even schooling?
We live in a country with roughly 319 million people. Trying to get rid of other cultural traditions and even accents is not something this nation originally stood for. This country is the land of opportunity and when citizens come from a different background, we as a nation should welcome their beliefs, ideas and especially their language. Language is the only thing that has the power to connect cultures throughout the world.
Trying to keep citizens from speaking their native languages completely disregards our rights under the Constitution. This country was built on difference and forcing conformity will only prolong conflict.
Ruiz maturely went on to respond to the hateful comments posted about her native tongue. Formally addressed on KPNX, Ruiz states, “I was lucky enough to grow up speaking two languages, I do like to pronounce certain things the way they are meant to be pronounced and I know that change can be difficult but it’s normal and over time I know that everything falls into place.”
In that short, straightforward sound bite, the brave Hispanic newscaster gave America a reality check. Together we need difference in language and culture in order to rightfully consume the media that is served to us.