Friday, November 23, 2007

Inmigrantes añaden diversidad a tradición nacional

Friday, Nov. 23, 2007

Mexican TV network adding English classes to its lineup
By S. Lynne Walker

November 19, 2007

LUIS J. JIMENEZ / Copley News Service

The National Autonomous University of Mexico's campus in Mexico City is working with Azteca America to produce English classes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said it to a gathering of Latino journalists. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said it when he proposed a bill calling for the designation of English as the national language. Even President Bush said it as he lobbied for his immigration overhaul package.

“I think people who want to be a citizen of this country should learn English,” Bush said.

Now a Mexican television network is saying it, too. And the network, TV Azteca, is putting its money where its microphone is.

In January, Mexico's second-largest network plans to launch a 60-hour series of English classes on 60 affiliates in the United States, from Chattanooga, Tenn., to San Diego.

The televised classes, the first of their kind to be broadcast by a Mexican network in the United States, will offer cultural as well as language lessons. They will not be broadcast in Mexico or other countries in Latin America. The aim is to prepare immigrants in the United States for a host of situations ranging from taking their children to school to grocery shopping and going to the doctor.

U-T Multimedia: For video of TV Azteca's English classes, go to uniontrib.com/more/englishclass
“It just makes sense,” said Luis Echarte, chairman of Azteca America. “In order to survive and get better jobs, they have to learn basic English.”

Echarte, 62, a Cuban-American who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, came up with the idea for the classes after making a courtesy call to senators and congressional representatives.

In every meeting, lawmakers brought up “the educational problem regarding the language,” Echarte said. “So we thought one of the things that we could do is . . . offer an opportunity for people to learn at least the basic language so they could do better in the country.”

Azteca America may also benefit by expanding its audience. The network ranks fourth among Spanish-language networks broadcasting in the United States. Its average prime-time audience in the first week of November was 183,000 viewers, Azteca officials said.

Azteca America has partnered with the prestigious National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, which has three campuses in the United States, including one in Los Angeles.

Students at UNAM will produce the TV classes in the university's Mexico City studio under the guidance of Azteca directors. Some segments will feature grammar and pronunciation, and others will instruct viewers on appropriate dress for work, renting an apartment and U.S. social customs such as waiting patiently in line.

The series, which will carry commercials, is tentatively scheduled to air in 30-minute segments on Sunday mornings, before Mexican families traditionally head for church or tune in to soccer games. For people whose work schedules or legal status prevents them from enrolling in formal English classes, the TV programs will allow them to learn basic language skills in their living rooms.

“This makes our community even richer,” said Paola Hernandez, who's in charge of community outreach and promotion for Azteca America San Diego 15 (AZSD), which will carry the classes in San Diego. “If we all speak the same language, it's easier for everybody.”

About 83 percent of Americans support making English the official language, according to a survey conducted in May for U.S. English Inc., an organization that lobbies Congress on the issue. The survey, conducted by the Zogby International polling firm, also found that 75 percent of Latinos living in the United States favor making English the official language.

Roughly 34 million people age 5 and older speak Spanish at home, according to a 2006 U.S. Census Bureau survey. Of those, many said they speak English “not well” or “not at all.”

“English empowers people,” said King, whose bill to designate English as the official language has drawn 130 co-sponsors. “If we as a nation take the posture that we're going to accommodate those who do not learn English and we do so as a matter of public policy, then they lose their incentive to learn and they're forever relegated to a class of second citizenship.”

Thirty states have designated English the official language. Louisiana passed the first law in 1812. Georgia passed a law in 1986 and again in 1996. California passed a law in 1986.

Schwarzenegger said he stopped speaking German and forced himself to speak English when he came to the United States from Austria 39 years ago as a young bodybuilder. At a June meeting of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, he advised Hispanics who come to the United States to do the same.

“It's that simple,” Schwarzenegger said. “You've got to learn English.”

The public clamor over English “is an indication of how much public angst there is over immigration,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for a reduction in immigration. The number of illegal immigrants in the United States has grown to nearly 12 million, accounting for one in every 20 workers, according to research by the Pew Hispanic Center.

“The only way the public can be convinced that maintaining high levels of immigration is a good idea is if they are convinced that immigrants are Americanizing.”

While TV Azteca's plan to teach Spanish-speakers survival English “helps in a practical sense, it's not going to make any difference politically,” Krikorian said. “This isn't just a practical issue. It's a moral question: Do they have a moral obligation to learn English? That's something we no longer insist on.”

Krikorian said he believes TV Azteca should exhort its viewers to learn English once they arrive in the United States, “but you're not going to see that, especially from a Mexican TV network.”

“It would be different if the message was, 'You're now in America, paisanos, and you need to learn English because that's the language of your new country.' That's a different message than, 'Here's how to get promoted from bus boy to waiter,' which is really the message of this kind of program.”

Ricardo Salinas Pliego, the billionaire retailing and media mogul who owns TV Azteca, insisted the program will help Spanish-speakers assimilate into U.S. life.

“We are trying to incorporate ourselves into American society, to incorporate ourselves starting with the language,” he said at a Mexico City news conference. “In the United States, there is so much to do. This is the first step.”

S. Lynne Walker: slwalker@prodigy.net.mx© Copyright 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co. • A Copley Newspaper Site

1 comment:

karen luna said...

(PUBLICADO POR: KAREN LUNA)A primera vista parece novedosa y util la idea de proporcionar al inmigrante latino educacion sobre cosas basicas del idioma que es necesario dominen para sobrevivir en suvida cotidiana. Util porque me parece que el tener conocimiento acerca de como comunicarse con personas de un pais muy distinto, que de por si en su mayoria tienen un sentimiento muy grande de rechazo y recelo hacia el inmigrante, facilitaria bastante el que pudiera haber un poco mas de tolerancia y aceptacion hacia este ultimo. Asimismo, les ayudaria muchisimo en cuanto a sus oportunidades laborales. Me parece muy ambicioso el proyecto, habra que ver con el transcurso del tiempo si realmente esa siendo eficaz.PUBLICADO POR: KAREN LUNA