Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Multilingual campaigning

Last week I mentioned John McCain's latest ad in Spanish (and the tenuous link it had to facts). Now a Washington Post reporter who is following McCain notes how rarely he brings up immigration in front of English-speaking audiences. He doesn't avoid it entirely, but "immigration reform is not something that McCain often mentions as a priority, unless the subject is something of particular interest to his audience, or he is asked about it."

This is making me think more about how a new strategy has now become part of presidential campaigns, that of sending different messages in different languages. Candidates have released ads in Spanish for years, of course, but my sense (if I am wrong, let me know) is that they were essentially copies of the English ads, tweaked for the audience. The McCain ad is an example of a campaign not wanting speakers of one language to hear the message being sent in another language.

There must be plenty of literature on this phenomenon, given the number of multilingual democracies. I wonder what effects, if any, it has. Does it create resentment? Or are most people simply oblivious? From a purely pragmatic point of view, is it an effective tool for winning elections?


Benjamin N. Gedan 11:48 PM  

It certainly seems likely that McCain did not release a corresponding English-language ad on immigration because he did not want to remind his conservative supporters of his past leadership on the issue.

But I wouldn't say that anytime a candidate releases an ad in another language it's a sign that the candidate is hiding something. After all, as much as we like to pretend it's not true (everyone cares about education, saftey, etc.), different groups in the U.S. often have different priorities and a targeted ad to one ethnic group, in its native language, might be effective in some situations.

Greg Weeks 6:20 AM  

True, it is not necessarily a sign of it. But in this case I believe it is occurring.

Anonymous,  6:51 PM  

Here’s an ad about McCain using two contradictory messages, one in English and a different one in Spanish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyF3uleiJds

Greg Weeks 9:37 AM  

Yes, that ad does a good job of summing it up.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP