WASHINGTON, April 28—President Bush has never been shy about speaking Spanish in public, and he is known to love all kinds of music: country, folk and even Tex-Mex style rock. But one thing you will not find on his iPod: "Nuestro Himno," the new Spanish version of the national anthem that was released on Friday as part of the growing immigrants' rights movement.
Asked at a news briefing in the Rose Garden on Friday whether he believed the anthem would have the same value in Spanish as it did in English, Mr. Bush said flatly, "No, I don't."
"And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English," Mr. Bush said. "And they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."
Mr. Bush has tried to occupy a middle ground in the raging debate over immigration, supporting legislation that would grant immigrant workers temporary legal status and perhaps a path to citizenship, while pushing for immigrants to learn English also pressing for more steps to stop the flow of newcomers over the border. But his statement about the anthem was taken by members of both parties as a clear signal to conservatives that he stood with them on what many of them see as a clash between national identity and multiculturalism.
His remarks touched directly on the divide over the impact of immigrants on the nation's culture, crystallized this time by the release of the Spanish version of the anthem, loosely translated and featuring Spanish-language stars like Gloria Trevi and Carlos Ponce.
Adam Kidron, chief executive of the label that released the new version of the anthem, Urban Box Office Records, said in a statement that the song helped those who did not speak English "to fully understand the character of 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' the American flag and the ideals of freedom that they represent."
The song, which includes some departures from the original lyrics, was distributed to Spanish-language radio stations, many of which have been encouraging huge numbers of protesters to take to the streets in recent weeks. Another large action is scheduled for many cities on Monday, when some immigrant rights groups are calling for a nationwide economic boycott.
The anthem has fed into a backlash on talk radio, the Internet, cable television and Capitol Hill, with conservatives complaining that it was encouraging the very cultural balkanization that they have feared all along.
Mr. Bush's comments were striking for a president who has embraced Spanish in his political life. Mr. Bush grew up in Midland, Tex., alongside Spanish-speaking children. As a politician who became governor and ran for president aiming to build a broader Republican coalition, he seized every chance to win over the fast-growing Hispanic population.
"He recognized that Texas was rapidly becoming a state that would have more Hispanics and more African-Americans than it would Anglos," said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, who plans to introduce a resolution on Monday "to remind the country" why the national anthem should be always sung in English.
Mr. Bush took aim at Hispanics as an important voting bloc during the last two president campaigns. Mr. Bush has starred in his own Spanish-language advertising, and he was the first president to give his weekly radio address in Spanish. (The Spanish wire service Agencia EFE once said he spoke the language poorly, "but with great confidence.")
Mr. Bush ventured into a little Spanish on Friday, using the Spanish pronunciation for the smugglers known as "coyotes" while outlining the need for stricter border enforcement.
Democrats and Republicans alike said Mr. Bush seemed to be making clear to conservatives — for the grassroots and for those in Congress opposing guest worker and citizenship provisions in the immigration legislation — that there were limits to his support for the pro-immigration agenda. Should the Senate pass immigration legislation this year that creates a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for some workers in the United States illegally — provisions that most conservatives oppose — Mr. Bush would play a main role in working on a deal with the House, which has passed a bill that addresses just border security.
"The president is working hard to try to pass the bill, and he's thrown a bone to the right here," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, a centrist group that focuses on Hispanic issues.
White House officials said Mr. Bush was not being politically calculating and has always believed that new immigrants should embrace the national language and culture.
Mr. Bush made his comments in a wide-ranging session with reporters in which he also said he opposed calls for a windfall-profits tax on oil companies.