Bi-Linguage

by | May 18, 2012 | BiLingual, New Paradigms, Trending | 5 comments

Having grown up in white-bread middle-America in the 50’s, I never imagined a future for this country that accepted anything else but English. I won’t mince my words: I think it weakens our country to be bi-lingual.  That sounds odd coming from me.  I’m the son of a Swiss Immigrant, whose native tongue was French, and my mother spoke German in her Iowa farmland school and church through sixth grade.

But back then it wasn’t cool to speak anything else but English.  The elegant French pronunciation of my last name — Americanized — was:  Kor-vuh-seer’.  My father almost NEVER spoke French around the house.  He wanted to be an “American”…and that meant speaking English.

That sentiment is apparently gone, now.

Having said that…and getting back to reality…there seems to be no turning back. And besides, the arrogant attitude in America of the 60’s. 70’s and 80’s where the education system only gave lip service to learning foreign languages has hurt us all on the world stage.

So now, it seems cool to be able to hang out your voice-over shingle with the words: “BILINGUAL” or “Spanish AND English VO”.  I’d be jealous, but I’m having enough trouble enough accomplishing English.  So is it likely in my late-50’s that I’d be able to master a 2nd or 3rd language?  I’ve always been great with pronunciations (you might be surprised how many broadcasters are NOT), but believably delivering copy in two languages seems daunting.  There are so many Spanish dialects…French lilts…British acccents…American twangs.  Where would I start?

IF you’re a bi-lingual voice actor, I’m interested to know how you market yourself…whether it doubles your exposure, your opportunity, your income.  Is it twice the headache?  Do you have two rate-cards?

Please participate in my brief survey posted in the Voice-Over Friends FaceBook Group.

Or…feel free to react to THIS blog article in the comment section below.  I’d like to know your thoughts.

CourVO

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5 Comments

  1. Roxanne Hernandez Coyne

    hey, Dave–great article, as always! The issue of bilingualism can get really thorny, as it extends to issues of illegal immigration and politics, and while I have much to say about it, I don’t want to ignite a firestorm. But long story short, I agree that it weakens our country. It divides us. More and more, we live in a fragmented world. We don’t speak the same language and we don’t watch the same tv shows or read the same magazines or listen to the same music. We are a completely fragmented society and it’s only getting worse with all this internet, digital, personalized gadgetry we love so much.
    That said, I suppose I’m making my own contribution to this unfortunate state of affairs by working as a bilingual voice talent. I actually speak four languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French and English) but I’m only a native speaker of TWO and that’s how I position myself.
    I did not initially set out to work in the Spanish market at all. It just so happens that most of the work I was booking years ago happened to be in Spanish. I got my SAG card on a Spanish commercial and 90% of the commercial work I do is still for the Spanish market. I don’t even have a VO agent for the general market. Just Spanish.
    I don’t have two rate cards. I just speak both languages and I’ll record in either one. Have never seen any reason to charge differently for one language or another. It’s just what I do. It’s my niche. I have a rather primitive website, which you are invited to visit…later this very weekend I will be launching a new, improved site that really reflects where my business stands today and what sort of work I do. It’s taken forever to launch the site but thanks to FAFFCON and YOUR BLOG (about the Wall) it’s finally getting done. Here’s the address and please remember, this is the OLD site….new one is completely different: http://www.roxannesvoice.com

    I think going into the future there will be many more people like me, who are native speakers of more than one language. I wonder if, when that happens, we will still need people like me, to voice things in Spanish. Second generation immigrants, like myself, really have no need of my services. I, myself, do not watch Spanish tv or ever choose the Spanish option when it’s offered. But my mom does. And from what I see at my kids’ grade school, the same is true in many immigrant families: parents keep the old language alive at home while the kids simply master both, as only young children can.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Thanks, Roxanne, for your thoughtful comment and the kind words about my blog.

      I’m not sure where things are going to go in this country, linguistically…I see English as remaining the dominant language, but I bristle when I see naturalization ceremonies or court cases conducted in Spanish, or official government documents written in English AND Spanish. Not only does that discriminate against people who speak languages OTHER than Spanish, but it removes any incentive for immigrants to learn the language of their new country.

      I could write a book about this…I feel very strongly about it….so I’ll stop there.

      warm regards,

      Dave C

      Reply
  2. Brian Amador

    Hi, Dave. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I have to admit I’m a bit perplexed by your assertion (and Roxanne’s) that “being bi-lingual weakens our country”. First of all, our country is not bilingual (though many of its inhabitants are) nor does that seem to be much of a possibility in the foreseeable future. I really can’t see us becoming like Canada, where all children have to learn two official languages in school and all federal government records are kept in both languages. Secondly, I’d like to know what you mean by “weakens”. How is our country weaker now than it was when I was a kid and the white, straight, Christian worldview was the only one we were ever exposed to in a meaningful way? I agree that our country is more divided now than it has been since the 60’s, but there are so many divisions so much deeper than the linguistic one that language seems almost trivial by comparison. And I agree with Roxanne that the proliferation of media and Internet outlets has fragmented our society (as I suppose is true in much of the world). It’s become very easy to live in an “information ghetto” where you can interact exclusively with people who share your beliefs. On the other hand, we also live in a time when our culture as a whole is much more welcoming of diversity, and much less discriminatory. Clearly, we can’t put the 500-cable-TV-channels-and-Internet genie back in the bottle, so I suspect if we’re going to regain a sense of national unity and identity it’s going to have to be based on respecting and accepting differences while nurturing common ideals. Sadly, this seems a long way off. Maybe we’ll finally get tired of yelling at each other and decide to actually get things done by working together.

    Anyway, getting back to your questions about marketing, here are the quick answers: Does bilingualism double our exposure? Maybe not double, but it certainly increases it a lot. Ditto for opportunity and income. Twice the headache? No, although it can be frustrating when a client comes to us with Spanish copy that’s poorly translated, especially when they insist we read it that way. Two rate cards? No way. This is America.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Hey Brian,

      Thanks for fleshing out your thoughts on this topic. As you might notice in my response to Roxanne’s comment, I have some passionate opinions about this, but find written communication sadly deficient on such political/cultural issues. I don’t want to misunderstand your statements, and I would not want you to take my positions erroneously…so how ’bout we just agree to chat about this on the phone, or in person, or in a Google hangout sometime?

      Thanks again, and my best to your lovely family,

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply

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