Concept of Citizen of the World

I have been giving much consideration to what I think a Citizen of the World is. Is it a person who speaks multiple languages? Further than that, is it a person that speaks a little bit of a lot of languages, or speaks fluently in a few? Is it a person who travels far and much? Is it a person who knows personally people from many cultures? Or is it a person who has lived in many places? I have thought long and hard on this question, because if I say I am a Citizen of the World, what am I really saying about myself? What do I stand for? What are the principles I hold dear?

I have read books, studied, searched the internet and talked to people, always with the same question in mind: What is the essence of being a Citizen of the World? I researched the thousand years of the Roman Empire, then the thousand years of the ensuing Dark Ages. What an eye-opener that was. I looked into the hundred year period of the British Empire in India known as the Raj. That is a story worth reading for anyone. I read the history of the Arab invasion of Spain, with it’s tremendously far-reaching scientific and cultural effects. I have searched far and wide, mostly in vain, for the true story of King Arthur and the Round Table, and for my favorite historical figure, Merlin the magician. Continue reading

Counting in Spanish and French

When learning a foreign language, in an immersion situation, it becomes vital to learn useful tasks, such as counting. Once learned, you then have a skill set which you can utilize from then on. So that’s what I am going to do. I am going to learn to count in Spanish and French. For this time I’m going to go to 20. Continue reading

Comparing Spanish, French and Italian

We’ve talked about the Romance languages before, the languages which derived from Latin, vulgar Latin actually, the Latin spoken by the man in the street, soldiers, shopkeepers, the citizenry. It is a continual fascination to me how one language became so many different ones, really different from one another. So different that they can no longer understand one another.

I enjoy comparing one language to another to see just how different they really are. Let’s take something common, like the days in the week and compare them in Spanish, French and Italian. Let’s keep it simple for now and compare the day names only, no sentences or phrases. Continue reading

Social Language: French, Spanish and Italian

Learning foreign languages should be fun. Too many of us (like me) take academic pursuits like learning foreign languages way too seriously. We’d all like to be able to speak French like an artiste in Paris, or Spanish like a vaquero in Argentina, but we want to be able to do it right now. We don’t want to wade through years of grammar and vocabulary study. So what do we do? The usual answer is all too common. We quit! But you know, that just doesn’t get us very far, does it? Not very far at all.

I’m sixty-something and after a lifetime of not being able to speak a foreign language, by golly, I’m going to learn. And I’m going to have fun doing it; right from the start. I have done a ton of research about language learning, and I’ve developed a plan. An outrageous new plan. I am going to learn what I am calling Social Language. Language for social situations: restaurants, theater, hotels, travel, etc. And I’m going to learn it in three languages: French, Spanish, and Italian. This will allow me to start speaking a limited amount immediately. All the experts I’ve read say that if you want to learn to speak a language, speak it. Right from the start. By the way, if you’re trying this along with me, and you want to start with just one language instead of three, that’s fine. Just have fun with it, and start talking now. Continue reading

Layered dishes 101: Lasagna

I’m really into international cooking. I like to bring out the flavors of different countries and cultures. I wondered if there was a method by which you could change from Italian to Mexican just by changing a few ingredients while keeping the method the same. I said to myself “I’d like to learn to make something really good to eat, something I could make for company, something I could change up a little for variety, but without having to go to cooking school to do it?” Well, I’ve got just the thing: layered dishes. They are fancy, fun, easy, and they can be changed up to give you an endless variety of different tastes. I’ve made a bunch of them and they are great. I’ll pick different ones each time we talk, but I’ll show you how they are all similar in technique, so you can build a little more on each experience.

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Mangiare! Mangiare!

If you went to visit my Italian aunt any time of the day or night, almost before she said Hello, she would ask if you wanted something to eat. And immediately after serving you some delicious bowl of something, she would sing out “Mangiare! Mangiare! Eat! Eat!” That was an Italian expression of love, sharing with you the stuff of life: Food.

Unfortunately, humans have made this wonderful experience of eating into something detrimental by overeating. That is because eating, to us, is not just an act of fueling the body, filling the tank, but a pleasurable experience of joy and satisfaction, even receiving love. So, long after the tank is full, we’re still enjoying the delicate aromas, the robust flavors, the hearty camaraderie, the caring love that the meal abundantly provides. We’re just not ready to quit. And, many times, we don’t. Continue reading

Second language protects against Alzheimer’s

Bilingual people found to exercise important brain network that helps mitigate impact of Alzheimer’s


Want to protect against the effects of Alzheimer’s? Learn another language.

That’s the takeaway from recent brain research, which shows that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing the disease.

Psychologist Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues at York University in Toronto recently tested about 450 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Half of these patients were bilingual, and half spoke only one language.

While all the patients had similar levels of cognitive impairment, the researchers found that those who were bilingual had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years later, on average, than those who spoke just one language. And the bilingual people reported their symptoms had begun about five years later than those who spoke only one language. Continue reading


Carnival is coming. Soon. Although it is celebrated many places in the world, one of the most famous is Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Rio Carnival is a wild four day celebration, 40 days before Easter. It officially starts on Saturday and finishes on Fat Tuesday, with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, after which everyone is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnival, with all its excesses, is celebrated as a profane event and can be considered an act of farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. It usually happens in February, the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere, when the Rio summer is at its peak.

How do you know on which Tuesday it will fall?  Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter, and Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday. Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25 with the exact date to coincide with the first Sunday after the full moon following a Spring Equinox. In 2011 Fat Tuesday will fall on March 8. Rio Carnival will run March 5-8, with opening ceremonies on March 4. Continue reading

A dying language?

Have you ever heard the saying “Latin and French, a dead language and a dying one?” Latin is considered dead because nobody speaks it as their native language. Many people know Latin, and can read and speak it, but nobody in the world speaks it on a day to day basis as their first language.

Now French, on the other hand, is still widely spoken, but in a somewhat dramatic decline around the world. According to many international language teachers, it is disappearing from European classrooms in favour of English and several other languages. Thanks to the predominance of English on the internet, the relative ease of learning basic English, and the perception that English is a cooler language to speak, French is becoming more and more restricted to older generations and the upper classes, where it used to be the second-most taught language in the world. In general, things are looking down, and the question may be: Is the future written in French? Continue reading

Four Seasons

Here we are in February. In the north country, such as New York, it is mid-winter. But here in the south, in Texas, we are bouncing back and forth between winter and spring. By the time New York is having spring, we will already be in summer. Then in October, we’ll both be going into fall. Winter, spring, summer, fall; around and around and around we go. While we are thinking about this repeating cycle would be a good time to learn what the names of the seasons are in Spanish and French. Continue reading