Monday, December 28, 2009

Ingles sin Barreras

Why I haven't written a post about one of the BIGGEST products in the Latino/a community is beyond me. Next to tortillas and beans, Ingles sin Barreras is known by almost everyone. I was listening to Spanish radio last Sunday and an infomercial for another similar product was on. I listened attentively to how the commercial really focuses and plays on peoples personal lives. They do this by repeating and stressing the fact that a person needs English to succeed in the U.S. that they risked their lives and their families to get here, crossing, paying thousands of dollars, looking for a better life etc. They hit every key point, tugging at peoples heart strings and trying to, nay, exploiting them. It works because people listen.

So, a little history on the product then. According to their web site, which has on option to switch the language from Spanish to English, this product is owned by a marketing firm and it started out back in 1988, to help Latinos/as learn the English language to succeed and to better assimilate.

"Lexicon Marketing began in Miami, Florida in 1974 to serve the educational needs of the Hispanic community in the United States. Josà Luis Nazar, Lexicon's founder, recognized the need for Hispanics to learn English with an appropriate method, a method that was convenient to use at home and easy to comprehend. As a recent immigrant to the U.S. from Chile, Mr. Nazar knew first hand the difficulties involved in learning English with the available resources at that time. He set about to provide the right tools for Hispanics to learn English and succeed in the U.S by creating his first audiovisual course, "Inglés Sin Barreras", a name that has become a household brand in the US Hispanic community." 


As you can see from this video, they focus more on conversational speech, rather than teaching a person to read and understand the language. It has more of a focus on mimicry, repetition and memorization, which would help someone learn the language faster, but not comprehend it, master it and be fluent in it. There inlies the problem and part of the reason why I don't think this product works or has any real merit. However, I'm not the targeted group, parents and working class folks are. The one's who don't have time to take a class at an adult community center/school and who may feel insecure about returning to school, if they even ever attended one to begin with. As the case with a lot of immigrants, the majority of them don't finish elementary school or even get into jr high and high school because of family obligations to work and make ends meat. Or they live in towns/regions that don't offer/have schools available to them.  Some are borderline illiterate as well. Like my parents who fall under everything I just mentioned.

Learning another language, specially at an adult age and with limited schooling can be difficult. Commitment, learning habits, possible learning disorders and other circumstantial factors play a big role in how and if people can learn conversational English through these videos and cds. I know my dad bought a similar product and after a while, and shelling out a nice chunk of change for it too, he used it, but never followed through. It was more of a novelty and a trend more than anything for him as my sisters and I got some good laughs from watching the videos. I don't think our laughing helped encourage my dad to continue watching the videos.

I couldn't find an exact price for the program, which includes what I counted 12 different and individual dvds, cds and practice booklets, for each level of practice. La Curacao, one of the biggest home/furniture stores that caters to the Latino/a community in terms of products and giving them accessible credit, sells it for $899.99. It's flipping insane and what's more insane is that people do pay this price or $69 a month. This is a huge investment of both time and money. If someone is going to spend close to a thousand clams for some program to learn English, they are not going to take it lightly. Must be why my dad paid like $80 for his. People desperately want to succeed and learn the English language so they see it as an investment in their futures that will pay off, if they get it and do it right. 

This video really plays on the stereotypes that a lot of Latinos/as faced and it was on Latino/a television regularly on Sundays like all other infomercials. Looking back on it, this video is freaking hilarious. The actors and everything just crack me up. Course it's from the early '90s, but still I got a good laugh out of it. They turn it into a mini-novela in which the husband is at wits end at his job, his mother in law hates his ass for being broke and not learning English and his wife wants to leave him. At the end he gets a supervising position at his job, saves his marriage and makes his mother in law proud. Good stuff.