In case you haven’t heard, here are some of Guillen’s quotes from the Associated Press:
“Very bad. I say, why do we have Japanese interpreters and we don’t have a Spanish one. I always say that. Why do they have that privilege and we don’t?” Guillen said Sunday before Chicago played the Oakland Athletics. “Don’t take this wrong, but they take advantage of us. We bring a Japanese player and they are very good and they bring all these privileges to them. We bring a Dominican kid . . . go to the minor leagues, good luck. Good luck. And it’s always going to be like that. It’s never going to change. But that’s the way it is.”
Guillen, who is from Venezuela, said when he went to see his son, Oney, in Class-A, the team had a translator for a Korean prospect who “made more money than the players.”
“And we had 17 Latinos and you know who the interpreter was? Oney. Why is that? Because we have Latino coaches? Because here he is? Why? I don’t have the answer,” Guillen said. “We’re in the United States, we don’t have to bring any coaches that speak Spanish to help anybody. You choose to come to this country and you better speak English.”
“It’s just not the White Sox, it’s baseball,” he added. “We have a pitching coach that is Latino, but the pitching coach can’t talk about hitting with a Latino guy and that’s the way it is and we have to overcome all those (obstacles). You know why? Because we’re hungry, we grow up the right way, we come here to compete.”
Spanish is Widely Spoken in U.S.
The co-king of rants is not wrong about unequal employment of interpreters. However, his words are just so black and white. And the world is not black and white.
Yes, it is unfair that Hispanic players do not get their own interpreter, but let’s look at some facts into why this is the case.
Spanish is the official language of 20 countries worldwide. According to Wikipedia, “329 to 358 million people speak Spanish as a native language and a total of 417 million people speak it worldwide. It is the second most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese.”
In the United States, specifically, 34.6 million people were estimated to speak Spanish at home in 2008. Compare that number to 8.4 million people who were estimated to speak Asian and Pacific Islander languages at home.
Of course, one must also remember that a Chinese person can’t understand a Japanese person, but a Paraguayan individual can communicate with an Argentinian.
The point of the above statistics is to emphasize the fact that Spanish is widely-spoken in the United States. In fact, the U.S. is only second behind Mexico in terms of total number of Spanish speakers in a country (reference website was translated by Google). The article states that the number of registered Spanish speakers in the U.S. is 45 million, not including illegal immigrants. Not to mention, Spanish is also the most popular foreign language selected by students in school.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15.4% of people are of Hispanic or Latino origin while 4.5% are Asian. That means, 1 in 6.5 people are Hispanic or Latino.
Spanish Interpreters Are Not Needed
Guillen may not know the reason as to why baseball organizations don’t hire Spanish interpreters, but we can surmise that it’s because there’s no real need. In a country where Spanish is so prevalent, it almost seems redundant to hire an interpreter.
In fact, New Mexico, an American state, is “commonly thought to have Spanish as an official language alongside English because of its wide usage and legal promotion of Spanish in the state; however, the state has no official language. New Mexico’s laws are promulgated bilingually in Spanish and English. Although English is the state government’s paper working language, much of the daily business of the government is conducted in Spanish, particularly at the local level. Spanish has been spoken in the New Mexico-Colorado border and the contemporary U.S.-Mexico border since the 16th century,” says Wikipedia.
Herein lies the difference between having a Japanese or Korean interpreter versus a Spanish interpreter. You won’t find any state’s laws in Japanese, Korean, or Chinese. Asian baseball players actually need an interpreter because finding a person who speaks their language in the U.S. is significantly harder compared to a Spanish-speaking baseball player.
Guillen tried to make it sound like baseball organizations in America are purposefully oppressing Hispanic players and taking advantage of them. That is just simply not the case. Logically, it’s not an economically efficient way to spend money because there isn’t a great need. Perhaps the “equality for all” concept is missing in terms of interpreters, but Guillen’s words are much too simplified and biased. The colors of the White Sox may be black and white, but America is most certainly not.