Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Spanish
We've all been there, waiting for hours for a technician to show up for repairs, but what happens when he finally shows up, and you don't speak the same language? Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- South Florida is a multi-cultural community, and that's part of our charm, but cultures can clash. Busy dentist Dr. Gordon Sokoloff found that out when he called to have his satellite dish repaired.
Dr. Gordon Sokoloff: "So I spent an afternoon waiting for a guy who came to my house."
When the technician showed up, Dr. Sokoloff was relieved, until he realized he would not be able to tell the tech his problem.
Dr. Gordon Sokoloff: "I couldn't communicate with him and nothing got done."
He doesn't speak Spanish, the technician didn't speak English, so Sokoloff called Direct TV.
Dr. Gordon Sokoloff: "Would you please send somebody out who speaks English."
He says the company said, "sure," so he stayed home again and again a tech showed up who did not speak English.
Dr. Gordon Sokoloff: "I was very frustrated because my time is valuable."
Carmel Cafiero: "You don't have anything against Spanish speakers?"
Dr. Gordon Sokoloff: "No, not at all."
But what Sokoloff did have a problem with was being unable to communicate what needed to be fixed with the person sent to fix it. He called Direct TV again, this time asking for a supervisor and explaining to her why he needed a technician who spoke English.
Dr. Gordon Sokoloff: "And she says, 'I'm sorry, I can't guarantee that.' I was blown away."
We contacted Direct TV, which sent a statement. In part, it reads, "We take into consideration the area's demographics when we field technicians." The statement indicates the area where Dr. Sokoloff lives is "largely Cuban American so the company sends out Spanish-speaking technicians." Direct TV says it takes requests for English-speaking techs but can't guarantee one.
That's not good business according to Mauro Mujica of U.S. English Incorporated.
Mauro Mujica: "The company should assume that this is an English-speaking country."
Mujica is an immigrant from Chile who heads a group pushing to make English the official language in the U.S. He says this is a classic reason why it's important.
Mauro Mujica: "You have to be able to communicate. If I have a guy coming to my house to fix whatever, they have to assume that I will have a question."
Dr. Sokoloff certainly wishes that were true. He says, in America a special request should be getting a technician who speaks Spanish, Italian or Creole.
Dr. Gordon Sokoloff: "But to have to request someone to speak English in the United States is absurd."
Carmel Cafiero: "There's a clear picture on his TV these days thanks to a private repair company, but the language issue is still fuzzy, and this Spanish-only experience no doubt will touch off debate for some time to come."
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