Saturday, February 19, 2005

"Neutral Spanish" Not American Spanish 

Today's mediawatch brings us this nifty article about the new policy at Telemundo requiring that its telvision personalities adopt and adapt to de-regionalized and unaccented spanish, a.k.a. "neutral spanish:"

The new policy at the Spanish-language network [is] aimed at increasing viewership in the lucrative Hispanic American market, where there as many accents as there are Spanish-speaking countries. Which would seem to be why some idiot at the AP titled the article "American Spanish? Telemundo coaches "neutral" accents."

I have problems with that title. Telemundo claims economic forces only -- and it is true, indeed, that more Americans residents, regardless of language, feed the cash cow that is television. But the clear titular implication here by the AP is that "Telemundo Spanish" is somehow "americanized" spanish...which would, of course, carry additional implications that today's news is just one more aspect of the Americanization of everything, which is of course, for most people, A Bad Thing.

But how is this sort of Spanish any less SPANISH Spanish -- which is spoken in many different dialects and accents throughout the world -- than the "unaccented english" that American newscasters have been required to speak in for decades in order to get on the air nationally? It is practically coincidental that America is the geographical locus for of multiglot Spanish; in reality, the cable-and-satellite world which carries Telemundo to the four corners of the earth would need to do this anyway to be able to claim their global market.

I'd suggest that there's nothing inherently "Americanized" or "American" about the idea of de-regionalizing language in order to reach the broadest possible population of that language's speakers....and that regardless of what county that language's speakers are being reached IN, de-regionalism of a language -- even to reach polyregional populations such as Hispanic Americans -- does not make that language somehow more like that, more related to, or appropriately deserving of any connection whatsoever to a different country with a different language.

The sources in the article seem to agree, notably...with the exception of one American specialist sought out by the AP who makes the usual noise about American imperialism, and misses the point entirely. But the very fact that their specialist here is American makes her seriously suspect. Note that the AP -- which reported on this story FROM New York -- looked locally, instead of looking to people in those countries who they claim are being affected BY American imperialism, to find someone willing to make their subtle title-driven case that much stronger.

To me, this only underscores the usual concern that uberliberal concerns about Western-driven globalism may be not just self-perpetuating, but self-projected as well. And, as we have learned, such projection/protection of "oh, the poor others" ultimately perpetuates otherness, disempowers others to speak up for themselves, and is anathema to true diversity and intercultural respect.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:20 PM |

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