Sunday, April 30, 2006

Nuestro Himno

Si yo escriba en español aquí, quizá no puedo ser americana de verdad. Si vaya a otro país y hable allí en inglés, es impossible que admire a su gente. Especialmente, es impossible que pudiera querer ser una de ellos. Y si cante su himno nacional en mi propio idioma, para entender mejor su sentido y sentir la unidad con otros imigrantes como sí misma, eso nadie podría soportar.

Or at least that's how ABC seems to take it. USA Today has a bit more balance, writing about 50/50 pro and con. (Thanks to Language Log for the links.) The very end of the ABC article, it shows the two conflicting views:

"I think its a despicable thing that someone is going into our society from another country and...changing our national anthem," [George Key, Francis Scott Key's descendant] said.

Those behind the new song say Key and others miss the point. The Spanish version is meant to show immigrant pride in a new country where they live and work.

And it's not like this is the first time any immigrant has ever "dared" to do such a "despicable thing" as translate the anthem. Language Log details Wikipedians' findings: German (1861–1864ish), Yiddish (1947), Samoan (2006), French, Tohono O'odham (a Uto-Aztecan language; 2004) (and also Latin, strangely enough).

The Samoan version they want as their official territorial anthem — and this is relatively recently, too: January 26th of this year. In a totally different take on what it means to translate the anthem, the Samoans say they honor us "by memorializing the anthem of the United States in our native language." At the Democratic National Convention in 2004, they included Native Americans from Arizona singing in Tohono O'oodham. I suppose none of these other groups are as large a minority as hispanics, though, and thus pose no great risk of changing American culture. (And obviously, the way it is now is the way it should always be. All change is bad change, right?)

Now, I'm not saying that I think immigrants shouldn't learn English. It's to their advantage to do so, so I'd recommend it to them. But Americans don't have to be monoglots! If immigrants are fluently bilingual (as I've observed many immigrants' children to be), then more power to them. They have two worlds open to them, that the rest of us have to peer into while all the subtleties get lost in translation.

On a purely artistic note, I prefer the Spanish version linked to from NPR over Jimi Hendrix's version.

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