The art of bilingual reporting
NBCU Academy Presents “Behind the Story”
January 15, 2021
José Díaz-Balart, the anchor of MSNBC’s “José Díaz-Balart Reports” as well as the “NBC Weekend Nightly News” and Telemundo, joins Gadi Schwartz, NBC News correspondent and host of Peacock’s “The Overview” and NBC News’ “Stay Tuned” on Snapchat, to discuss reporting in English and Spanish.
The following excerpts have been edited for clarity.
Gadi Schwartz: You’re a pioneer in this bilingual reporting. How do you keep it all straight at the same time?
José Díaz-Balart: I think that the difference is, are we bilingual, or are we bicultural? And I think when you’re able to be bicultural, it’s like both languages live with the same weight in your heart, in your mind and in your soul. I dream in Spanish and in English, I think in Spanish and in English, I pray in Spanish and in English, I read in Spanish and English. So there are times when the languages do collide in your mind.
Schwartz: Any advice for young journalists when it comes to navigating both these languages? And do you think that language is going to play a bigger role in the future?
Díaz-Balart: A bigger role every single day! And my advice would be cultiven el castellano, cultivate Spanish, and I know that our parents are constantly telling us that. And it’s really not good enough just to have “abuela Spanish.” The opportunity to speak with your grandparents in a language gives you that, but you need much more. You really do need to cultivate your language skills.… Gadi, what has been your biggest challenge? And since you didn’t grow up speaking both languages completely fluidly, what has been the biggest challenge and the reward?
Schwartz: I think for me, the biggest challenge is just getting familiar with the language. There’s two different types, like you said, there’s “abuela Spanish” and then the Spanish where you have to broadcast to the nation. And that is a very daunting undertaking. Recently, what I’ve been doing is I try to read out loud, because the mouth and the movements are very crucial, especially when it comes to enunciating and getting that pronunciation perfect. So I’ve been reading a news story, the longer the better, usually from the Los Angeles Times in Spanish. And then I’ve been reading a little bit of “Harry Potter” in Spanish, because it’s a much easier read and it’s a lot more conversational. So that’s kind of helped me. But what it’s done is it’s unlocked this ability to reach to different generations here in the United States that oftentimes in the past have been apart because of this language. All of a sudden, it’s okay to embrace both heritages and embrace this identity and be yourself.