Grading the Democrat Spanish speakers at the debate

The Democratic party debates took place on Tuesday and Wednesday (6.26 and 6.27) in Miami. There were two sets of debates, each featuring 10 candidates. The first set on Tuesday featured no less than three Spanish-speaking candidates on the same stage:
Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Julian Castro. Since Miami, Florida has a large Spanish speaking population, each of the those candidates wanted to show off their Spanish skills to the constituents in the obvious hope of currying favor with them. The press had a field day with this, stating the motives of these candidates as “pandering.” If you ask me, it’s just politics as usual. All politicians engage in pandering of one sort or another. Watch the Spanish performances in this YouTube video.

Pandering or no pandering, we wanted to check how each of these candidates did. How good were their Spanish speaking skills? We put this to two senior members of our Spanish language team (Lucia and Tany) at GTS and this what they had to day:

Beto O’Rourke gets a B

Beto was the best of the lot.

Lucia

Beto’s Spanish is fluent. He has good pronunciation and he corrects himself when making a mistake. Here are some of the mistakes that he made:
Missing prepositions
Gender mismatch: “nuestro democracia” should be “nuestra democracia”
Subject-verb disagreement: “cada votante necesitamos” should be “cada votante necesita”
Wrong word order: “cada voz necesitamos escuchar” should be “necesitamos escuchar cada voz”

Tany

His overall pronunciation is not native but is acceptable and understandable.
There are several mistakes:
He says: “incuir cada persona” He should say: “incluir a cada persona”
He says: “en nuestro democracia”  He should say: “en nuestra democracia”
He says: “cada votante necesitamos la representación” (grammarly incorrect)
He should say: “necesitamos la representación de cada votante”
He says: “y cada voz necesitamos escuchar” (sounds unnatural)
He should say: “y necesitamos escuchar cada voz”.

Cory Booker gets a D

Lucia

Cory has poor pronunciation and it is a little difficult to understand what he is saying. He seems uncomfortable with the language. But he had no grammar mistakes.

Tany

His overall pronunciation is very unnatural and difficult to understand.
Besides he makes the following mistakes:
He says: “Es de presidente ha atacado”  He should say: “Este
presidente ha atacado”
He says: “ha dimonadado” (it is ununderstandable, it does not mean anything)
He says “ha dimonadado los inmigrantes” (grammar mistake)
He should say “ha ????? a los inmigrantes”
He says: “Es inaceptable, voy a a cambiar este”.
He should say: “Es inaceptable, voy a cambiar esto”.

Julian Castro gets a D

Lucia

Says just one sentence. Too little to evaluate.
“Me llamo Julián Castro y estoy postulando por presidente de los Estados Unidos.”
Personal pronoun missing, the correct version would be: “me estoy postulando…”

Tany

His overall pronunciation is like a native Spanish speaker, very understandable and natural. Nevertheless in his few words he makes a grammar mistake:
He says: “Estoy postulando por presidente”
He should say: “Estoy postulando para presidente”

Julian may actually not even be a Spanish speaker as he was born and raised in the USA. His grandparents spoke Spanish but it was probably not spoken much at his home. Most probably he practiced his 1-2 sentences until they came out OK.

In Summary

Beto O’Rorkue is the only fluent Spanish speaker of the three candidates who spoke Spanish on the stage. Hailing from El Paso with its relatively close proximity to Mexico and large Spanish speaking population, Beto obviously has good language skills as well. Is that enough to get elected to the White House? Probably not, but if Beto doesn’t make it he can always find a place for himself in the translation industry.

 

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