By ALEXANDER B. PEARCE
The cliché of calling the United States a melting pot is still relevant today, especially in terms of language. Roughly 82 percent of the population claims English as their mother tongue, while the rest of the population claims another language as their own. The stereotype of the monolingual American is unfortunately a true one and also one that can be very damaging to journalists.
If a reporter is given a story involving people without a decent command of the English language, he or she can be almost clueless about how to proceed. Luckily for the linked in journalist, there are a number of viable venues to give oneself a working knowledge of a language to use while working.
The United States has the fifth-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, so for the purposes of this article the only language examined will be Spanish since it is the most common non-English language spoken.
While most people are under the impression that learning a language requires expensive software or a private tutor, in reality a number of websites exist to spread new languages to the public without costing anything. StudySpanish.com is one such site, although it is written to guide users to eventually buy the company’s language discs. These drills and exercises help to familiarize completely clueless speakers with the finer points of the language.
Podcasts, as a major part of the new-wave of social media provide hours of audio entertainment, often at no cost. Many of these podcasts can also serve as learning tools, including the teaching of language. Discover Spanish offers a series of free podcasts teaching the bare minimum needed to get by. While one listen through the archives won’t turn anyone into a native speaker, these kinds of tools are useful for giving reporters a basic familiarity with a language.
While no completely free language courses exist for the general public, the Internet has a great deal of content that can be used to provide a basic understanding to even the most uneducated monolinguist.