The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

How do you say "body language" in Spanish? Debate does not provide the answer

Posted on October 8, 2008 by

Maybe too cowed to weed out the actual message(s) from last night’s American presidential debate, the media’s now wringing their hands over “body language“. Once again, more than what Senators Barack Obama and John McCain said, it’s how they said it. A nice bear hug at the end deflected the damage of McCain pointing and referring to Obama as “that one,” or Obama audibly sighing and shaking his head.
Paralanguage — tone and vocal nuance — was just as crucial. Obama apparently made a big boo-boo and came off as a bit alienating by eschewing a middle American twang and saying ‘Pahk-istan’ and ‘Tahl-iban’. The winner? More or less consensus is: if we’re speaking in body language, it was Obama. But if we’re speaking in paralanguage, McCain is ooooo-one for ZEEE-ro.
One language they did NOT speak in — or about — in last night’s debate, however, was Spanish.According to the Spanish EFE newswire, immigration, bilingualism and foreign policy vís-a-vís Latin America — some rather volatile issues for these candidates– did not come up even once in last night’s debate. Yet a gander at United States Spanish-language television will reveal that there’s actually a raging debate going on … just not for the ears of monolingual English speakers.
Spanish-language TV stations in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico have been inundated with ever more aggressive counter attacks in Spanish. The clip above has McCain accused of ‘caving’ to the ‘anti-immigration’ people, while an ad floated last week by the McCain campaign, quoted an instance of Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden referring to Mexico as a ‘dysfunctional’ society.