Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Help Me Howard: No English Manuals
America is a country dominated by people who speak English, so you would assume the government, financed by the people, prints its brochures, manuals, etc. in English. Well, not always. In fact, if you have been trying to get a driver's manual, getting one in Spanish is easy, but, in English, they are out, which is why one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you want to make someone feel sorry for you, just utter three words.
John Lippincott: "I'm a realtor."
We're joking of course, being a realtor is a great way to make a living, but John Lippincott is an honest man and admits right now it's a tough way to make a living.
John Lippincott: "Last few years it's been kind of challenging. Everyone knows that the real estate market is not the greatest at the moment."
Since John has a daughter in college he decided to pick up a part-time job and needed a commercial driver's license, so he headed to the division of motor vehicles to get the manual.
John Lippincott: "And I said, 'I would like a study manual to get my commercial license,'" and she said, 'Well, we have plenty of them here in Spanish, but we don't have any in English.'"
This was in Deerfield Beach, prime real estate for English-speaking Americans, so John asked the next logical question.
John Lippincott: "And I said, 'When do you expect to have some of them in?' and she said, 'I couldn't begin to tell you.'"
Now, when John called us, we assumed one driver's license office had run out of English language manuals and would soon get them in, so, a few days later, I went to the Deerfield office. No English manuals, and no idea when they would get some.
John Lippincott: "You should have written manuals in English, period. I mean it's fine with the Spanish too, but English should be there."
We also stopped in at the Oakland Park office. Again, no commercial manuals in English.
Producer: "Just Spanish."
We then tried the DMV office in Pompano Beach.
Producer: "Only Spanish. They said they have been out for months."
Three offices, all three out of English language manuals, but there were plenty of manuals in Spanish.
John Lippincott: "The main language in this country is English."
Determined to get a manual in English John went on-line and printed one, all 98 pages. Too bad he couldn't read Spanish.
John Lippincott: "You know, I am just trying to make some extra money, and I go, and I can't even get a manual in English, and they can't even tell me when I am going to get one."
John Lippincott: "It kind of irritated me a little bit."
But is the state of Florida, which has plenty of Spanish language manuals available, required to provide manuals for English speaking Floridians, Mr. Finkelstein, por favor?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, the state has done nothing wrong. This is not discriminating against English speakers, rather they printed English and Spanish and ran out of one. Politically, though, most people will think this is wrong because if you can't print enough books, make sure you print enough in the official language of this state, even if you have to print fewer in Spanish."
When I spoke to the Division of Motor Vehicles, I was told: "We are aware of the shortage, and we have had some problems with our printing." They also told me, in their last printing they put out, nearly five times as many English commercial manuals as Spanish: 137,500 English manuals, 27,500 Spanish manuals. Obviously, there is a greater demand for English manuals. The state hopes to print manuals in English in March.
Howard says, actually, this is just a hint of state problems that will be clear in every language.
Howard Finkelstein: "If you depend on a government agency for anything, get ready to get short-changed. In Florida, we are facing the largest budget shortfalls in the state's history. Get ready for delayed services, shortfalls or the elimination of things you expect from the government."
John is now studying the English language manual he printed on-line, and the incident has left him with one more question: Why print manuals in Spanish at all?
John Lippincott: "I just feel if you live in this country, you should have some knowledge of English where at least you can pass your driver's test because, after all, the signs are in English, I believe."
It may surprise you to find out Florida is one of only 28 states that have English as the official language. Someone asked me, if English is the official language of this country. The answer: No. Moves to get that made into law have failed.
Tongue-tied troubles left you speechless? Don't let it get lost in translation. The law may be Greek to me, but Howard will explain it in a language even a dumb southern boy like me can understand.
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