Our local FOX affiliate is reporting that (dramatic music) Maryland Public Television is running “V-Me”. Here is the quick story.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Spanish-language public television is coming to Maryland. Maryland will join other public stations in running the “V-Me” programming. The name comes from Spanish for “see me.” A for-profit venture partnered with public television, V-Me is a 24-hour digital broadcast network carried on basic digital cable and satellite systems. It currently serves at least 28 million homes. Some will be Spanish-language versions of classic public shows, such as “Nature” and “Plaza Sesamo.”
The FOX affiliate is quoting people that say that a Maryland Public Television channel should not be devoted to Spanish language broadcasts, especially with taxpayer money. The report makes it sound like taxpayer money is being used, but the General Manager of MPT is indicating that it is being run at no cost to MPT or Maryland taxpayers. In typical FOX news style, the GM was asked what would happen if suddenly they had to pay for the programming. (Let’s create a crisis where none exists!) The GM said there were no long-term contracts to carry the programming, so a decision could be made whether or not to carry it based on need.
The debate over the language we speak is really challenging for people like me in the community I serve. I hear cries for English as our official language and the demand to require English in order to be permitted to work. Our collective and historical memory is so very short.
When immigrants come to this country, it is not unusual to have those first generation immigrants to use primarily their native language. Spending time in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, I note that there were entire ethnic neighborhoods with language from the “homeland” used extensively in worship, in homes, and in commerce. I believe it was also true in Baltimore. It was not until the second generation when people became bilingual and by the third generation had generally lost the language of the “homeland”. My family followed this pattern also. My great grandparents immigrated from Germany and learned only enough English to barely get by. My grandfather who was a child when coming here (I know, that doesn’t fit precisely my generalization above) was bilingual, and served as translator for the family. Almost all of the English he learned was in school. My father knew German and English, but was much more comfortable in English. I know only a few German words, most of which are theological terms I learned in seminary.
Somehow, people expect that English is the international language that everyone should speak, especially if they travel in, live in or, become citizens of this country. My observation is that these are people who generally don’t make the effort to learn another language themselves. American citizens are amazingly unilingual (if that is a word).
When I responded to FOX News poll regarding this question, I replied that this was a wonderful service, especially for first generation Spanish-speaking immigrants and for those attempting to learn the language. At that time, only 20% of the respondents had agreed that this was a good idea.