The Super Bowl may have been a lackluster blowout this year, but the commercials provided an opportunity to inflame the passions of some viewers. Coca-Cola ran a commercial with a multilingual rendition of "America the Beautiful," with languages including English, Spanish, Keres Pueblo, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French, and Hebrew.
It might seem like an innocuous marketing gimmick signaling cultural inclusivity, from the company that brought us "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." Multilingual marketing appears to be getting popular these days — witness the version of "Let It Go" from the Disney movie Frozen encompassing 25 languages, including Catalan, Cantonese, and Flemish. But that kind of public display of linguistic diversity still frightens or offends some people, especially when a patriotic song like "America the Beautiful" is given the polyglot treatment. For a sampling of the more extreme reactions on Twitter, see Deadspin, Salon, Huffington Post, and Time.
All of this gives me flashbacks to 2006. In advance of that year's Super Bowl, I wrote a post about a Toyota commercial featuring Spanish-English code-switching. (The ad was for a hybrid, of course.) While that commercial wasn't particularly controversial, a few months later there was a big political kerfuffle over a Spanish-language version of the national anthem, "Nuestro Himno." Language Log covered that controversy here, here, here, and here.
If you'd like to avoid reading the boneheaded "Speak English!" comments on Twitter, you could instead sample some of the videos that Coca-Cola made about the commercial. There's a behind-the-scenes video about the young female singers, as well as standalone renditions in each of the languages featured (and a couple — Mandarin and Arabic — that apparently didn't make the cut): Spanish, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French, Hebrew, Mandarin, Keres Pueblo, and Arabic. Oh, and English.
Update: And here's Jon Stewart's take on all of this.