Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

January 15, 2014

CEPEDA: Mayor Bloomberg's halting Spanish

CHICAGO — Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says critics of his broken Spanish should just “get a life.”

Bloomberg, noting his continuing work on perfecting his facility with the second most-spoken language in the world, told a talk radio host, “You know, I’m going to get there; I don’t have any doubts about that. And these people that make fun of me, you know, what do I care? You know, you wonder, why don’t they just get a life?”

I hate to think of Bloomberg letting his critics upset him over, of all things, Spanish pronunciations. Honestly, he’s got enough haters that any number of them complain about anything he does.

Maybe it’s because I live far away from New York and the ramifications of Bloomberg’s creative public policies, but I’ve always liked the guy.

And I happen to love his syntactically bizarre, monotone, yet earnestly delivered Spanish. Sure, his effort inspires some head-shaking, but you have to appreciate his technical accuracy.

Until Bloomberg’s latest comments, I always thought that the parody Twitter account @ElBloombito, written by the devastatingly funny Rachel Figueroa-Levin, came off as a brilliant bit of fan homage. Perhaps it reads that way if you admire Bloomberg’s sincere linguistic attempts. But Figueroa-Levin told a reporter that she isn’t a fan of Bloomberg and considers him an ultra-rich egotist.

Frankly, I can’t imagine how anyone — especially those with the experience of having to see their own close ones struggle with the harsh difficulties of the English language — could blast the mayor for not being perfectly fluent.

(And just imagine what would hit the fan if people made fun of a prominent Latino’s accented English. The fallout would be apocalyptic.)

Maybe it’s because bilingual people who have true fluency in two languages from always being immersed in both don’t understand how terribly difficult it is to learn a new language — much less speak it publicly, opening oneself to ridicule.

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