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Spanish Ballots

By Mara Zuniga

At the first Athens-Clarke County budget hearing, I suggested to the local government to redirect funding for the Board of Elections for Spanish translation of ballots to Casa de Amistad for ESL classes. ESL classes would help non-English Spanish speakers to become more proficient in the English language. Becoming proficient in English is also more sustainable than continuing tospend on translations and would enable Hispanics to understand the key issues that will affect them as taxpayers as well as candidates’ stances on those issues.

I appreciate and understand those who think that a one-time translation is all Hispanics need to be part of such a complex process. All my relatives are Hispanic. I am a Nicaraguan immigrant with Naturalized citizenship. I have many family members who speak English well, some not so well and some don’t speak English at all. I have family and friends that are undocumented, legal residents and citizens. I have heard the different perspectives on the challenges of living in a foreign country and I have heard it in the fullness of our native tongue. Nothing was missed due to mistranslation. So, when I give an opinion about the needs in my community it is not done from afar but from total immersion in my own culture.

Many legal residents want to become American citizens but lack foundations in basic grammar that will be necessary to learn basic English. Understanding this, I came up with a Bilingual ESL Preparatory program that I taught voluntarily. This program paved a way for regular ESL classes.  I incorporated civic, history and geography classes. I taught this program for two hours, twice a week for two years. They were then ready to move on to regular ESL classes and prepare for citizenship classes and its test.

The citizenship test is given in English. There is an exception with strict requirements when one can take a translator. The test is made up of ten questions taken from a pool of 100. To pass the test, six out ten must be answered correctly (one can see sample questions at immigrationdirect.com). I dare say that some American born citizens will find this test difficult.

Thus, if you can pass this test, you can read or figure out a ballot. To believe the opposite is to presume Hispanics do not have the ability or smarts to do so.

I understand the authentic concern that some folks may have toward this issue. However, there are a very few who hijack the issue for political agendas. To back up their arguments, they use that one or two Hispanic relatives or friends, who barely speak the language and may feel intimidated or incapable of reading English ballots, to say that this is how the whole Hispanic community feels. Even some community and governmentleaders think they can speak on behalf of the Hispaniccommunity without participating or listening to it much. Onemust immerse within a culture daily to understand what the community needs not just when voting season is around the corner and you want their vote.

If there exists a legitimate concern for the Hispanic community to understand voting material, why is there no concern to have them understand the issues? City hall sessions, town hall meetings and candidate forums never have translators. I have yet to see Spanish materials at these important events.

So, is it preferable to have a one-time translation of ballots, which Hispanics don’t really need, or to equip Hispanics for a lifetime of success?

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댓글 21개


Katy Henry
Katy Henry
5월 14일

This is a really great resource! It feels really nice when it presses on my eyes. If there's a method to be informed when a new post is published, do let me know.

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Jordan Maddox
Jordan Maddox
2023년 8월 29일

The Voting Rights Act requires certain jurisdictions with drift hunters sizable Spanish-speaking populations to provide election materials and assistance in Spanish.

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Randi Franklin
Randi Franklin
2023년 6월 05일

Thank you for writing such an important explanation of the importance of translation, learning ESL, and understanding culture and community. I own a foreign language services and have made this argument many a time. I wish you the best of luck in our "fight". If you wish to contact me my website is http://Inter-Lingua-Online.com.

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Take a guess what would happen if I moved to Germany or France or Japan or Korea, not speaking any of their language and I insisted everything be printed in English for me, because I couldn’t be bothered to learn the language of the country that I decided to be a citizen in. Now…WHAT type of response do you think I’d get from any of these countries governments of my insistence that they cater to me in my language?

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Classic City News
Classic City News
2023년 6월 05일
답글 상대:

You had better mind your manners or you will be gone, so consider yourself to have been forewarned.

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Paul Bunce
Paul Bunce
2023년 6월 04일

I seem to recall that English is a requirement for citizenship. And citizenship is a requirement for voting in Federal elections as well as most local elections outside of a couple of idjit areas in CA.

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답글 상대:

Yes it is as stated in the article. One must pass an English test to become a citizen to be able to vote. There is an exception however.

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