Friday, April 01, 2016
mind the (language) gap
Mexican and American leaders announced a major development today to improve the bruised relationships between the United Mexican States and the United States of America caused by this year's presidential campaigns.
Paul Ryan, speaker of the American House of Representatives, and Jesús Zambrano Grijalva, President of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, signed an agreement that their respective legislatures will pass legislation in the next three weeks making Spanish and English the official languages of both countries. Both leaders praised the core of the proposal that includes an aggressive program to make both countries fully bilingual within the next three years.
Speaker Ryan and President Zambrano have been friends since meeting at an international conference for legislators held in Germany last year. Realizing that a comprehensive immigration package was not going to pass Congress, they started discussing other ways to build diplomatic bridges between the two countries.
Ryan, who is fluent in four languages (including Latin and Political Jargon), said: "Language was the obvious place to start. If you cannot understand one another, how can you build a constructive, free-market society and economy? Mexico is a major trading partner. If we want to increase American jobs, we need to be able to talk with our customers."
Zambrano concurred. "It is time that we taught English to someone other than our social elite, snooty waiters at expensive restaurants, and our valiant workers who return from the north."
When asked if they expect resistance from their respective constituencies, Ryan responded: "We are building a society of opportunity. When Americans see the value that will be added to their paychecks by learning Spanish, no compulsion will be required. For people who cannot clearly see their own self-interests, we will build incentives into the legislation to assist them in making their free choice."
In response to a followup question whether those incentives would include penalties, Speaker Ryan responded: "You might say that, I couldn't possibly comment."
President Obama was caught unawares that the two leaders had been meeting. He issued a brief statement: "No other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might -- but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them."
Press secretary Josh Earnest added, "If the legislation passes, the administration is drafting rules that would immediately require all signs, labels, conversations, and other public communications to use Spanish. After all, immersion programs are the most successful." He added that during that year he would be on sabbatical in Scotland."
Rosetta Stone, and other language programs, tripled the price of their Spanish language programs upon hearing news of the proposed legislation.
This piece is dedicated to the spirit of Jack Brock.