By Paula Ann Solis
Do you know what the official language of the United States of America is? If you think it’s English, you’re wrong.
You’re only wrong because there isn’t one. While several states and unincorporated territories have listed English as their official language, on the federal level it isn’t so, and I like it that way.
Official national languages aren’t something I think about often, but the topic came to me while watching “The Voice.” It has become rather popular on campus since a current student is a competitor.
While I’m very happy that Baylor is being well represented on the show, I’m even happier that the Spanish language has developed such a strong presence on what is a heavily-viewed network in America, the country with no language.
I’m a Spanish speaker, and even I was caught off guard when New York contestant Cáthia walked onto the stage singing “No Me Doy por Vencido.” Then, when three of the four judges asked Cáthia to join their team I was further shocked since the only judge who spoke Spanish was Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira.
On episodes to follow, two more Spanish-singing contestants performed and I began to wonder if it was because Shakira was a judge or if this was just an illustration of the shift in American television and America as a whole.
Some viewers might not have thought it was as a big a deal as I did, and some might have just muted the performances altogether, but I was intrigued by the message in front of me: American television does not mean English television.
Why does this even matter? Maybe because it was only 50 years ago that students around the nation were punished, sometimes physically, for speaking Spanish in classrooms.
It seems preposterous now, physically punishing someone for speaking another language, but it was a real and scary part of many lives. And the stigma against Spanish speakers lives on.
Earlier this month in Alamogordo, NM, Corey Jones, a first-base umpire, allegedly warned a high school baseball player that if he spoke Spanish he’d be thrown out of the game.
I have two concerns with this scenario. First, it’s New Mexico. Second, it’s baseball. How Jones thought he wouldn’t hear Spanish during the game is beyond me.
Jones caught a lot of negative reaction from the heavily Hispanic community and from the media for his alleged ban on Spanish. But this isn’t the only current example of people being made to feel out of place because they prefer to speak a language other than English.
This topic is a particularly sensitive one for me because when my father came to America at 19, he only spoke Spanish.
It disturbs me to think he might not have been welcomed in certain places because he didn’t speak English.
But advances are being made, as seen on NBC, and I like what it says about our nation’s tolerance for things that aren’t the norm. I hope Spanish and other languages acquire greater airtime on American television because in reality, for many American viewers, English is just a second language.
According to a report by the Huffington Post, Jones has resigned from his umpiring post. Maybe while on this break from working, he can catch up on “The Voice.”
Paula Ann Solis is a junior journalism major from Houston. She is a staff writer for the Lariat.