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Online Community Lesson



            There is money to be made in an emerging field, brain exercises.  Do not be surprised if we one day see a franchise called “Bally’s for the Brain”.  (Yes, Bally’s, make a donation to a specified charity and you may have the service mark.)

            But this lesson is not about starting a business.     

            There is a strong feeling in our country that everyone should speak English.  Those who feel that way are right.  Ease of communication through a common language, even official language, is useful in breaking down barriers, making friends, dealing with emergencies, and, yes, strengthening democracy.  At the same time, bilingualism, even multilingualism, is useful in breaking down barriers, making friends, dealing with emergencies, and strengthening democracy.  Even more, there is research which suggests that bilingualism would be useful in slowing Alzheimer’s.  (Google “bilingualism senility” for the specifics.)

            In 2006, this writer had the privilege of meeting Dr. Renford Reese at Cal Poly Pomona.  Dr. Reese started a program called “Colorful Flags” after teenager Latasha Harlin was killed by a store employee over ten years ago, in a dispute over a bottle of orange juice.  Dr. Reese thought that, by teaching a little culture and language, he could break down ethnic mistrust.  (See his Web site,

            Has “Colorful Flags” worked?  Dr. Reese gave me language cards which I keep in my wallet.  I have tried a couple of Hindi phrases with an employee in Montebello.  Yes, the program works.  I now have a friendly acquaintance, if not a friend.

If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to, with “E-News answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization. 

1. When it comes to language ability, which does more for a country and the individuals living in that country?

(a) Knowledge of the common language.

(b) Knowledge of the common language and a language spoken by many residents. 

2. What is the most enjoyable way to learn a second language?

(a) We create a circle of learners and ask a friend who is bilingual to teach us.

(b) We take a course at a community college, practicing at a restaurant after class.

(c) We borrow tapes or books from the library, or use a program like “Colorful Flags”. 

3. In which way does bilingualism help, other than slowing Alzheimer’s?

(a) It enables us to understand others and avoid miscommunication.

(b) It gives a businessperson a way to increase business.

(c) It adds to our personal skills, which might mean a raise, promotion or hiring.

(d) We get enjoyment from reading classic and modern literature in the native language. 

January 18, 2007































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