Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are American's Biased Against Political Candidates that Speak a Foreign Language?

Quelle horreur! Mitt Romney speaking French. America's long-held distrust of intellectuals is legendary, but God forbid that a presidential candidate should speak a language other than English. Currently, there are two TV ads called the, “French Romney,” and the “Romney Connection.” The ads show footage of Mitt Romney speaking French. In one ad, the narrator states,

Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney-he'll say anything to win. . . And just like John Kerry, he speaks French too.”

This is followed by a clip of former Presidential candidate John Kerry saying,

Laissez les bon temps rouler.” Juxtaposed with another of Mr. Romney saying, “Bonjour, je m'appele Mitt Romney.”

(Although my French is a bit rusty these days, Mr. Romney's French isn't that bad.)

Only in the USA is speaking a foreign language considered a liability. In 2004, John Kerry had to stop answering questions in French from foreign journalists after candidate G.W. Bush accused him of “showing off,” even suggesting that Mr. Kerry's ability to speak French made him sympathetic to France and therefore Un-American.

This attempt to portray political candidates as elitist and Un-American simply because they speak a foreign language is insulting to the intelligence of most Americans. These ads are just another example of pandering to a few people who view foreign skills as “intellectual” or Un-American.

John Huntsman speaks some Mandarin, and President Obama has some knowledge of Indonesian. If the USA truly wants to be proud of its leaders, then foreign language acquisition should be commended. As the USA moves toward becoming a bilingual country, with many people speaking Spanish as their primary language, this bias will hopefully end. Speaking a foreign language is a skill that should be encouraged, and candidates that have that skill should be praised, not criticized or mocked.

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