Sunday, May 13, 2012

English Only?

Alejandrina Cabrera, a City Council candidate in Arizona,  was barred from running because she allegedly does not speak English proficiently, and state law requires elected officials to know English.  She is vowing to appeal the judge's ruling.
     I decided to ask her about it, so I made arrangements through the Arizona Sun newspaper's Saturday Spanish-language edition to interview her.
     "Hello, Ms. Cabrera.  How are you?"
     I don't speak Spanish myself, so I assume the Spanish word "que" must be some sort of greeting. 
     "Let me get right to the point, you concede that you may have to continue learning English, but you don't agree that your English is not satisfactory to communicate  with the council and the majority of citizens at large."
     "Que?" she answered.  Her head was nodding up and down like a bobble-head in an earthquake.
     I thought about her answer.  Apparently, the Spanish word "que" must have multiple meanings.  Much like how "aloha" means both hello and goodbye in Hawaii.  "Que" must be used as both a greeting, and a form of acknowledgement.
     "You've also said you know that while many people know both languages in the community where you live, the truth is that, whether we like it or not, all people there speak Spanish.  If you go to the market, if you go to the Post Office, if you go to pay your water bill...  nobody speaks to you in English."
     "English?" she jumped in, enthusiastically.  "I speak English.  Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Saturday."
     One thing I've noticed about Ms. Cabrera, she sure speaks English better when she's talking through a third party, because through a third party she said, "He (the judge) can't take away my constitutional rights, and if he takes away my rights, he takes away the rights of the community."
     Her attorneys, meanwhile, have argued that the state law doesn't properly define proficiency in the language.  Cabrera declined to give details of her appeal, mainly because it required her to use English words of more than two syllables.
    Her attorneys, who have said that the most important part of this case is being able to charge $250 an hour, asked me before we started the interview,  "Hey, who's paying me for this time?"
     San Luis Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla filed a court action last month asking for a determination on whether Ms. Cabrera had the English skills necessary to serve on the Council, and he stressed, "it doesn't have anything to do with her refusal to sleep with me."
     An expert testified that in the tests he gave Cabrera, he felt that she didn't demonstrate the level of proficiency needed to serve on the Council, and that it had nothing to do with the fact that she "wouldn't sleep with me."
     County Judge John Nelson said he also based his ruling on Cabrerra's failure to properly answer question he posed to her, such as:  "Are you going to sleep with me, or what?"
     "Is this true?" I asked her.

Fifty Shades of Funny

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