What if everyone talks the same? What does that do to culture?
What if we’re talking about Latin American television?
For the past year, Telemundo has been employing on-set dialogue coaches to “neutralize” the many national and regional Spanish accents of the network’s actors. The network is aiming for the Spanish equivalent of the English-speaking local news broadcaster sound — a well-paced, accent-free patter that’s pretty much the same, whether the anchors work in New York, Ohio or Los Angeles.
Accent-neutral Spanish is the sound of a coming media culture. Spanish-speakers make up the fastest-growing group of minority media consumers in the United States, according to Nielsen Media Research. Univision encourages accent-free Spanish among its actors, even if it does not enforce it as Telemundo does. And neutralized Spanish can be heard elsewhere, as well: Both presidential campaigns employ it in their Spanish-language television ads targeting Hispanic voters.
I do get some grim satisfaction from the apparent victory of the forces of plurality and inclusion over the “English Only!” honkies. The hue and cry is not longer “You’re in America, speak ENGLISH!” Now it’s “You’re in the Americas, speak Spanish like WE DO!”