Brandi on Bilingualism

Reality TV is probably bad for your overall mental health, but it truly is a wonderful source of material for the instructor in sociolinguistics. For example, in the latest spat between Real Housewives of Beverly Hills chicas the very Anglo Brandi and former Miss Puerto Rico Joyce, Brandi has been saying some very non-enlightend things about Latino culture.

A particularly choice example is her complaint about Joyce spwitching to Spanish when she realizes that Jennifer also speaks Spanish.

Jennifer and Joyce start immediately speaking Spanish, and, while I know it’s not an actual secret language, I’m annoyed and almost feel like I want to pee on Jenny to mark my territory. I have no problem being cordial to someone I am not fond of for the sake of the situation.

I think most linguists would agree that Brandi’s comment is a bit extreme. Brandi has been accused of being a racist, but I think the problem is more subtle than that. Brandi is just not used to living in a multilingual context and apparently didn’t do that well in high school Spanish either. If she had taken LING 100, she would know this was perfectly appropriate behavior. f you do bother to watch the video (with Spanish translated), you will see that 1) the conversation is short and 2) it was obviously a “look at what we have in common” conversation.

I will admit that there are times when having two people converse in a language not everyone understands is potentially awkward and can be bad manners. For instances, in the Real Housewives of Miami has featured Spanish conversations whose sole purpose was to insult a non-Spanish speaker. If you do this though, you do have to make sure that the other person is NOT a Spanish speaker or you will be caught.

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