AP wrongly says ObamaCare site written in Spanglish

The Associated Press's recently published but factually challenged report that the ObamaCare Spanish-language site is written in “Spanglish” is both funny and pathetic. Years of high-school Spanish seem to have been wasted upon these journalists.

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According to the AP, “the translations [on the ObamaCare Spanish-language site] were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read ‘for the caution of health.’ ”  

The site's name, though, is “Cuidado de Salud,” which in Spanish actually means “taking care of your health.”

In another instance of the failure of some long-forgotten Spanish teacher to properly educate her students, the news service claims that  “The website translates ‘premium’ into ‘prima,’ but that Spanish word is more commonly used to mean a female cousin ... a more accurate translation … would be ‘cuotas,’ ‘couta mensual’ or ‘costo annual.’ ”    

The correct Spanish word for an insurance “premium” is “prima,” a word that indeed also means female cousin. Grammarians call these “homographs,” words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Proper Spanish should not be confused with regional street slang.

Another gem in the AP article worth noting: “Across the U.S., about 12 percent of the 317 million people in the country speak only Spanish [my emphasis added], but federal officials have said less than 4 percent of calls to a national hotline were Spanish-only as of last month.” This highly questionable, unsourced statement about language preference seems to imply that Latinos are not connecting with ObamaCare. 

Apparently unknown to the reporters is that English is the main language of American Latinos, according to an ABC News article about a Pew language-preference study. ABC News reports, “In 2012, 82 percent of Hispanic adults consumed news in English, up from 78 percent in 2006. Meanwhile the number who consumed news in Spanish declined from 78 percent to 68 percent in those same years. Also on the decline are the number who receive their news in both languages — 50 percent in 2012, from 57 percent in 2010.”

To the extent that some Web pages on the healthcare site link to English-language content, as the AP finally correctly reports, such content is principally hosted by insurance companies, which should probably translate their pages, but in some cases do not, because there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

But this critique of ObamaCare — and the much-read Washington Post's Ezra Klein’s faith-driven belief that the AP story was correct — should not be surprising. The Republican Party has made all of its 2014 electoral bets on denigrating and eventually destroying ObamaCare. Trying to peel away Hispanic voters any way possible — short of delivering on immigration reform — is a political imperative for the Tea Party-led GOP. This is no small irony coming from a party that routinely campaigns on “English-only” policies. Decrying a supposedly bad Spanish translation in tweets by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus transports us to Monty Python territory.

Perhaps most disturbing about the AP hatchet job is its conflation of so-called “clunky” translated website copy with the technical flaws of the original site launch in October, reported ad nauseam. The GOP's narrative that ObamaCare would end Western civilization has been adopted as a facile meme by purportedly independent, serious news organizations desperate to provide a false parallel between the GOP's hysterical howls and the reality of healthcare policy in America.

Spanish was my first language. And while I cannot compete with the august members of the Royal Spanish Academy of language in Madrid, I can tell the difference between proper Spanish and pidgin Spanglish. One would hope that respected news sources like the Associated Press and The Washington Post would have at least one person on staff who can actually read the world's second-most spoken language.