What’s the real concern?

Published 4:14 pm Sunday, April 6, 2008

By Staff
A recent contributor to Sound Off took the Washington Daily News to task for printing the newspaper in Spanish.
The entire newspaper is not printed in Spanish. On Saturdays, part of one page is printed in Spanish. From time to time, ads are printed in Spanish. Many of those ads are public notices.
More than likely, the person commenting about the Spanish-language items in the newspaper is more concerned with the people reading those items than those items being printed in Spanish. To be sure, there are people in this area who would prefer Hispanics — legal immigrants and illegal immigrants alike — not live here. Why shouldn’t Hispanic people who are here legally be able to read an ad printed in Spanish or the “Spanish page” that’s printed once a week in this newspaper? It may help them become well-informed residents and, possibly, aid them in becoming American citizens.
It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that students taking Spanish-language classes in school or others use those ads or that “Spanish page” to improve their abilities to read and understand Spanish. Those legal Hispanic immigrants likely use those ads and the “Spanish page” to improve their understanding and use of the English language by comparing the English versions to the Spanish versions.
It’s evident some area residents view those ads printed in Spanish and the “Spanish page” as reminders of a group of people they would rather not see in grocery stores, schools and in line at the Division of Motor Vehicles. Those residents are the ones saying that Hispanics and other Spanish-speakers should learn to speak English if they plan to live here. There is some merit to that statement.
It would be a good thing if immigrants, no matter their nationalities, learn to speak English after coming to this country. Doing so likely would make their lives easier. But as they learn to speak and read English, shouldn’t they have the opportunity to read important notices and printed information in their native languages?
If this newspaper printed some ads in French or included a “French page” from time to time, would there be any complaints? Possibly. Would those ads and that page be better accepted than the Spanish ads and page because most of the people able to read them look more like the people complaining about Spanish-language items in the newspaper?
Most complaints about Spanish-language items in the newspaper and other media probably can be boiled down to one thing — prejudice. There are some people in the area who prefer not to have people with different skin colors, who talk differently and have different ways of doing things.
In essence, when some people talk about doing away with Spanish-language items in the newspaper, Spanish-language options on telephone systems and not posting signs written in Spanish on government buildings, those people are saying they want to do away with any Hispanic presence in the area. Such people see a Hispanic person and conclude that person is here illegally.
There are illegal immigrants in the area. The problem of illegal immigration should be addressed. Being a person who speaks Spanish primarily doesn’t equate to being an illegal immigrant.
Worrying about the occasional newspaper ad in Spanish or a television commercial that includes 10 seconds of a message in Spanish won’t solve the illegal immigration problem. If you don’t want to read it, turn the page. If you don’t want to hear it, change the channel.
It’s likely that some of the ancestors of the people complaining about the newspaper printing items in Spanish spoke a language other than English when they immigrated to the United States. And don’t forget that Spanish-speaking people, including Hispanics, fought with the Allies in World War II. If the Allies had lost that war, would we speaking another language, say German or Japanese, in the United States today?
Let’s use the differences in the world to make it a better place instead of using those differences to incite divisiveness in the world.
Good day. Buenos dias. Bon jour. Guten Tag.