Folium: How Latino Players Are Helping Major League Baseball Learn Spanish via NPR

Folium: How Latino Players Are Helping Major League Baseball Learn Spanish via NPR

Folium: How Latino Players Are Helping Major League Baseball Learn Spanish via NPR


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Baseball has been known as an American pastime. However, over the years baseball has gained more recognition and has spread to countries all over the world. This has ultimately led to foreign players coming to America to play baseball in the United States. These recruited players come with more baggage than just their suitcases because most of them can’t speak English. In a joint effort with the players union, Major League Baseball will require every one of its 30 teams to have at least two full-time Spanish language interpreters in 2016. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick said Tuesday that a memo has been sent to all of the teams making it so. But a handful of these interpreters attempt to let the athlete speak for himself in broken English which often leaves the athlete embarrassed or undermined by other English-speaking players.

Much of the issues surround the inability of the Latino players to meaningfully communicate with the press. This can be the result of simply not speaking each other’s language, a barrier in how cultural norms affect the use of language, or from poor reporting on Latino players. The majority of the time the players are left to their own devices, and because of poor communication skills. There has been a push for interpreters to come in and help these players recover their image in an effort to allow their fans from everywhere in the predominantly English-Speaking world to understand them. How teams have dealt with such issues in the past has varied from club to club, and has been dependent on which language needed interpreting. This move is designed to bring uniformity and peace of mind, and to ensure that native Spanish speakers have a chance to express themselves more completely in the media.

Most players, regardless of their country of origin, do their best on their own speaking English, with varying results. One such incident happened last year when Brian T. Smith from the Houston Chronicle wrote an article on the rough performance of Carlos Gómez during his season with the Houston Astros. Gómez, born in the Dominican Republic and speaks English but not with much proficiency. When Smith quoted Gómez as saying, “For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed,” this sparked a backlash on the media. Sometimes the media cover players in a way that demeans their persona or leaves them feeling defeated.

“For the 2016 season, MLB mandated that all teams provide interpreters for players with limited or no English proficiency. Foreign-born Latinos made up a quarter of the players on opening day of the 2016 season and come from countries where English proficiency may be limited and Spanish is the primary language.” – NPR

The “lost in translation” effect is being addressed by MLB with acculturation and language lessons to Latino players while in minor league teams. Players who are going to be successful major league players for years, there are obvious advantages to having those players be bilingual and not just speak Spanish said former professional leaguer Paul Mifsud. It is unfortunate to have so many greats who play in the major leagues and get pummeled by the continual demand of knowing the English language. While long overdue, MLB’s plan to improve language services and cultural acclimation, and the press’s continued efforts to more accurately cover Spanish-speaking players should result in players feeling more at ease with the press and their fans, and fans gaining more access to and insights into their favorites.

Julie Martin
LEAF Editor & Contributor