After Coca Cola’s multilingual Super Bowl ad, which featured the song “America, the Beautiful” sung in seven languages, the American media and social networks responded with a variety of reactions. The ad worked as a mirror of the United States’ present reality, where around 60 million people do not speak English at home. A Coca Cola spokesperson released an official statement on Thursday morning clarifying that the ad incorporates values that are core to the Coca Cola Company: optimism, inclusion and celebration of humanity.
Among other reasons which support Coca Cola’s use of several languages to represent the United States are the facts that the USA has no official language and the fact that the Civil Rights Act regards the lack of access to services and information impeded by language as a discriminatory act. Recognising the importance of multilingualism and diversity in the country, the Super Bowl organisers decided to broadcast the match in Spanish as well, for the first time ever. Coca Cola’s ad was just another assertion that, today, the United States is made up of a variety of languages, cultures and identities.
The Importance of Native North American Languages
The importance of Native North American languages did not go unnoticed either. A total of 169 languages out of the 381 spoken in the United States are ancestral languages of Native Americans, which are spoken by around 372,000 people. Coca Cola chose Keres as one of the languages in which “America, the Beautiful” was sung. This ancestral language is spoken by only 11,000 people in the southwest and is not written-based, but transmitted orally from one generation to the other. For the ad, Coca Cola had to translate the song into Keres with the help of the elders, who know the language more accurately.
This is only one of various examples in which important multinational companies focus their attention on Native American language and culture. Other examples include Microsoft’s localization of Windows into Cherokee and even the subtitling of Star Wards using the Navajo language.
In spite of Coca Cola’s assertion that everyone featured in their ad is an American citizen, part of the American public reacted against it. Many complained that such a patriotic song was being sung in a language other than English, calling the ad and the act itself “unpatriotic” or “un-American”. Minutes after the ad was released, the #BoycottCoke hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter, with hundreds of Americans expressing their outrage towards the ad.