Al Alborn

Al Alborn

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Somewhere around 500 BC, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus mused, “The only constant is change.” History between then and now certainly confirms this to be true.  Prince William County is a contemporary example.

A quick look at the county’s annual population estimates tells the story.  In 1980, Prince William’s population was 144,703.  It’s probably around 470,000 today.  By 2040, Prince William will be approaching 600,000.  

But the growth in our Hispanic population is most noticeable.  The 1990 census showed that 4.5% of the county’s population was Hispanic.   U.S. Census data as of July 1, 2018, estimates the Hispanic population at 24.2%.  It would be safe to assume this percentage will continue to grow.

I interviewed Stephanie Williams, executive director of the Spanish language public access show “Panoramalatino,” to talk about the community she serves.  “Panoramalatino” was created by Williams, a Prince William resident, after a preventable fire caused the deaths of a Hispanic family just before Christmas.   “Panoramalatino” provides practical information such as fire prevention by subject matter experts to Hispanics in their native language.

Williams shared that language is important. Considering that Hispanic residents make up a quarter of our population, it is critical that they have access to information about their health, safety, public services, law enforcement, and other topics in a language they understand.  That is the mission of “Panoramalatino.”  It is a vital link between the Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park governments and this ever-growing segment of our community.

That struck me as government’s job, so but Williams doesn’t think it is doing a particularly good job.  

 “Certain department heads in PWC government do not appear to embrace diversity,” Williams said. She stressed that one must understand the culture and language before trying to translate government information into Spanish.  Williams said some people don’t understand the need for qualified, professional translators.  Some of the mistakes she has encountered in “amateur” attempts to translate have been amusing.  Others not so much.

Williams is aware of the growing economic and political power of the county’s Hispanic community.  Businesses would be well advised to seek professional help when marketing to and translating for this community.  

As the election approaches, “Panoramalatino” will cover voting information.  Evelyn BruMar, a local community activist, will be providing information about who can vote, when to vote, who can interpret for voters who can’t speak or read English, and the process.  This information will be shared on shows scheduled for the next three Fridays and in future programs between now and November.

Williams is one of a mostly volunteer staff.  She and her team remember the tragedy that took a family – and hope to save lives and inform the Hispanic community.  “Panoramalatino” depends on sponsors and donations.  Williams gave a shout-out to the first sponsor, Northern Virginia Elective Cooperative, which has continued to support “Panoramalatino.” She also mentioned Comcast, Novant UVA Health Systems, and the Prince William County Police Department as other important sponsors.

Panoramalatino” appears every Friday on Comcast Cable Channel 2 in Prince William at 8:30 p.m.  If you would like to be a guest on “Panoramalatino,” contact Williams at panoramalatino3@aol.com.

Mis disculpas to the Hispanic community for writing this column in English.  I’m working on my Spanish. 


Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week.  You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.

(4) comments

PJC

No Spanish people need to learn ENGLISH. If I went to live in another country (south of the border) would they change their language to English for me, NO! I would have to learn the language of the country I moved to. Look at all the other people that have moved here from other country's. Chinese, Japanese, Middle East, etc. Should they all learn Spanish? Why are we not speaking their language? I know when I go to their restaurants, they speak English. When I go to the doctors, and my doctor is Vietnamese, she speaks English. When I get a pedicure, she is Korean and speaks English. If all the other nationality's speak English, then Spanish people should learn ENGLISH, also. When our country was new, English, German, Italian, etc came to this country. The language that was spoken was English. We should continue the language of our fore-fathers. If you want to learn Spanish, be my guess, but, the language of OUR Country is still English!!!

RossBoss

Great article as usual Al. Sure it's easy to say that "everyone should speak english" but that's not how change happens. My German great grandparents never learned English, but guess what? All of their kids did! It's the same way today. If you look around Manassas, especially in my neighborhood near Georgetown South, you'll see our parks filled with hispanic families. They are out walking. There are groups of hispanic kids riding their bikes without helmets and playing outside until the sun goes down, just like I did as a kid in the 60's. They raise large families and vote pro-life and go to church. They work and buy houses and trucks and start businesses more than any other demographic. They are actually living the American dream while everyone sits in their houses and complains. I think learning Spanish is a great idea. So is enjoying this great city like they do.

toomanypeople

Now is a good time to learn English in the United States of America. Just as always.

InsideCommenter

This article is clickbait designed to incense the reader base. The vast majority of second generation Hispanic Americans is naturally fluent in English and speak it. Just like Italians and Germans who arrived speaking little English eventually people assimilate and learn the language. Learning Spanish is not a necessity even in places like New Mexico or South Texas.

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