The Longest Now


Bilingual Political Debates
Saturday September 06th 2003, 7:04 pm
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Bilingual debates are fascinating.  In the US, this canonically means English-Spanish debates in the South… but as En-Sp debates extend to national races, and as other communities of non-native speakers grow (Cantonese and Vietnamese more than French/Creole, I would guess), the door opens to some very interesting twists.  I would love it if the day arrived when being suitably trilingual were a major feather in a national politician’s cap.  I want to find bilingual transcripts of some of the southern-state debates between spanish-speaking and faux-spanish-speaking candidates, since the ones I know of from Texas races are utterly hilarious. 


From the September 4, 2003 presidential primary debates at UNM in Albuquerque, New Mexico:


Dean paused at the start of a healthcare question to deliver his first lines in Spanish. His speech wasn’t fluent, a bit slurred, but his accent was very natural — it took me a second to realize he wasn’t speaking English. Then he switched cleanly back into English.  He was delivering Spanish he had memorized, as they all were, but he and Kucinich were the only ones who dared say something longer and more substantive than a short, simple phrase [Kucinich dropped in bits of Spanish a few times and launched somewhat passionately into the closing remark below].


I’ve tried to transcribe their Spanish statements [PBS seems not to have any bilingual transcribers…]; it was hard for me to parse a few of Dean’s words.


Dean, starting in Spanish:



En Vermont, proboyemos? a seguro m


3 Comments so far
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It is not as easy as thought of course.
Rendering a language in another language simultaneously is a difficult work..

it is a difficult but enjoyable experience ı think.

Comment by elsa 05.03.12 @ 3:38 am

Went to a debate in San Antonio that was completely in Spanish. Threw me for a loop. People who only understood English wore headphones for translation.

Comment by mariah 10.07.12 @ 4:42 am

Fantastic — where in San Antonio was it? Was this related to this year’s presidential race?

Comment by metasj 10.08.12 @ 10:05 am



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