All posts by Richard K. Munro

BIOGRAPHY: Richard K. Munro April 4, 2023 I am a retired teacher of English, Spanish & history. I taught in public and Catholic schools for over 34 years. I am a California Certified teacher of Social Studies, Spanish and English. I was a Mentor Teacher in the Kern High School District. I hold a BCC (Bilingual Certificate of Competence). I have always been interested in foreign languages and bilingualism probably from the time as a young man realized that the Roman Empire was a de facto bilingual empire (Latin and Greek) and from the experiences of my father who spoke Spanish and Tagalog as a US Army officer during World War 2. My father encouraged me to study Spanish as it was a practical and important universal language. I attended public schools in New Jersey excelling in AP US history and AP Spanish. At the recommendation of my high school Spanish teacher I began my university studies in Soria , Spain with the University of Northern Iowa. We American students lived with Spanish families and pledged not to speak English with each other or anyone else for the entirety of the course (10 weeks). I became aware of the value of total immersion in a foreign language. I am fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and have a good competency and reading knowledge of Latin, Italian and many other languages. Like my father and uncles and other relatives who served during WW2 I volunteered to serve in the US military. I hold an honorable discharge from the US Marines. My parents were naturalized Americans and the first in their families to graduate from high school and go on to college. During WW2 my immigrant grandfather help build US Navy ships and Liberty Ships. My parents and grandparents impressed upon me from an early age the importance of national unity, patriotism and deep gratitude for the opportunities America has afforded us. My specialty became English literacy for newcomers (emphasizing phonics, diction, and grammar) and sheltered English immersion Social Studies (history) for English learners. I believe in voluntary high-quality Dual Immersion instruction and the importance of the teaching foreign languages. My daughter is a Dual Immersion Spanish/English k-6 teacher and my son is a AP Spanish teacher 9-12. I am married with three children. My wife is an immigrant and a naturalized US citizen. For many years I was an AP Reader in Spanish (adjunct faculty) for ETS. In 2004-2005 I was the ISI Renshaw Fellow at UVA and a University Supervisor. I taught at Bakersfield College for four years as an adjunct professor in Spanish. I have a New Wine Credential; I taught high school catechism in English and Spanish for over 20 years. I voluntarily tutored many immigrants pro bono for citizenship tests and for those who attended junior college. My wife and I have co-sponsored immigrant families in our community who have gained US residency. I studied history, political science, and Spanish at NYU (BA with honors) and was awarded the Helen M Jones Prize in history. I achieved my 5th Year teaching certificate at Seattle University and was certified as English teacher as well as Spanish and Social Studies. I hold an MA in Spanish Literature from the University of Northern Iowa. In addition to teaching, I have worked in private industry as a tour guide, a construction worker and as a customer service representative for the Bank of America (five years). I have published articles in newspapers, Military History magazine, Calliope and Cobblestone. I was author of “Spying for the Other Side, KIM PHILBY” which appeared in the McGraw Hill Anthology of World History. I have authored one-act plays for youth such as "Euripides' Trojan Women” (Calliope),"Romans on the Rhine", "Clad in Gold Our Young Mary" , "Beneath Alexandria's Sapphire Sky" among others. I have edited galleys of several books and have done research for authors notably Andrew Roberts in CHURCHILL WALKING WITH DESTINY and his THE LAST KING OF AMERICA: GEORGE III. I began my career primarily as a Spanish teacher specializing in Spanish for Native Speakers and AP Spanish and AP Spanish Literature teaching in Washington State and California. However, I also coached sports (baseball and soccer), advised for the local “We the People team” and filled in by teaching the occasional summer ESL or US history class. As a bilingual teacher of course, I attended meetings and conventions for bilingual teachers. There Stephen Krashen and others taught that a student could be taught Math, Social Studies, Language Arts and Science in their native languages (rather than English) and that knowledge and literacy would “transfer.” I came to call this Phoney Bilingual Education or NENLI (Non-English Native Language Instruction) Many teachers I met favored a “late exit” approach which meant keeping students in so-called bilingual classes deep into high school. I was skeptical. For me 1995-1996 was the turning point. I was asked to fill in for three ESL classes that had been previously taught by another bilingual teacher. I was shocked by what I found. The students were reading mostly in Spanish and doing journals (in ungrammatical Spanish) only. The students chatted in Spanish the whole period and English was rarely if ever heard. I was told the goal of ESL classes was literacy. I clashed with the local administrator who would not provide me English language dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries or English language material. I bought a box of American heritage dictionaries out of my own pocket and taught using newspaper articles and comics. I protested that the student transcripts indicated the classes were English classes so they should be taught and tested in English for those classes. To do otherwise was, in my opinion, intellectually dishonest, even fraudulent. I continued to inform myself and read books and articles by Linda Chavez and Rosalie Porter especially FORKED TONGUE by Porter. At the time our high school graduation rate was falling and one of the major reasons was students could not pass 11th grade US history or 12th grade Government and Economics. The Bilingual Coordinator had the answer: alternative paths mini-classes (all in Spanish) via Migrant Education. I was asked to teach US history and World History with Spanish language history books. These books were ordered via supplementary budgets and so evaded the normal book approvals via the district. I refused to use those books. Instead I volunteered to teach US history with English language books (with numbered paragraphs and bilingual glossaries). The school was very divided on this issue; I had at one time the support of the Social Studies chairmen and the school principal but not the vice principal and bilingual coordinator. I was very successful, and the students were very grateful. In one history class every single student passed his or her English proficiency test and graduated from high school. Over time, however, I became increasingly at odds with the Bilingual Establishment some of whom accused me, publicly, for being a “racist”, “English-only”, a “white supremacist” and “anti-immigrant.” I responded of course that my conscience was clear as I had dedicated my life to help immigrants and newcomers of many races and religions, spoke Spanish and other languages, and that my wife was an immigrant! In 1997 Ron Unz came our town to promote his new referendum English for the Children. To my surprise I felt sympathy for most of what he said and so volunteered. I actively campaigned with Unz , Henry Gradillas, and Jaime Escalante in English and Spanish for Bilingual Education reform with English for the Children in California 1997-1998. I helped produce bilingual radio commercials and appeared on Spanish language and English language television. During this period I met Rosalie Porter and later worked with her as an advisor in the successful English for the Children campaigns in Arizona and Massachusetts. I have been associated with ProEnglish for many years as an advisor eventually being invited to join the Board of PRO-ENGLISH. I believe local communities should have some choice as to what kind of educational programs they want to provide and what languages they teach. I also deeply believe in La Conviviencia. La Conviviencia is an almost untranslatable Spanish concept. It means living, communicating and working together and thereby gaining mutual respect and comprehension. I believe in La Conviviencia; we must live together as good neighbors. We have many problems in this world even enemies; but with our neighbors and friends we should live in peace. I believe in the policy of the Buen Vecino (the Good Neighbor) and in la Conviviencia (peaceful coexistence) of different cultures, languages, and religions. Diane Ravitch wrote “a society that is racially diverse requires…a conscious effort to build shared values and ideals among its citizenry.” This includes the recognition that English is and should be our official national language. The language of the rule books, Federal courts and juries must be in English. In addition, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, contracts, official documents, our laws and constitutions must be in English though translations can be provided. I believe English should be the official and national language of the United States. I do not believe we can or ought to be an officially bilingual or multilingual nation. This does not mean in any sense that languages other than English should not be taught or used, however. It should be clear that I have never been an English-only person but a multilingual person who is pro-immigrant and believes in voluntary multilingualism. America needs English but it also needs knowledge of other languages for cultural and educational reasons as well as for national security reasons. My entire family is multilingual and multicultural and I hope we carry on this heritage into future generations of American Munros and Mendozas in a prosperous, peaceful and United States of America.

When you find love TAKE IT! Don’t delay! You may never have another chance.

By Richard K. Munro

(16) Puccini – La Bohème – Musetta’s Waltz – YouTube

My old battalion commander who shall remain nameless at this time once said to me “Why have one girl when you can have them all!”

I answered humbly I rather have one good one than 100 bad ones.

Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger across a crowded room,
And somehow you know, you know even then,
That somehow you’ll see here again and again.

Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing,
You may hear her laughing across a crowded room,
And night after night, as strange as it seems,
The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams.
Who can explain it, who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons, wise men never try.

Is love at first sight possible? Do people really meet and in moments later know they have met someone special? Yes, I believe it. There is a lot of evidence for it! LOVE is very powerful. I believe it happens all the time when we least expect it. John Joseph Powell in the SECRET OF STAYING IN LOVE wrote:
“Do you believe in true love? Do you believe in love at first sight? Do you believe in love lasting forever? I think that these love stories will renew or reinforce your faith in love… They are the most famous love stories in history and literature, they are immortal. “It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.” Yes, no one can know true happiness unless they know the love of a husband and wife or of a child. I know when i first saw my grandchildren it was love at first sight! But I am going to write mostly of romantic love today.

The German author Herman Hesse described love at first sight in his charming novel GERTRUDE: “I already thought on that first evening of our meeting how glorious it would be to spend one’s whole life regarded by those beautiful, candid eyes, and how it would then be impossible ever to think or do ill.”

Victor Hugo believed in it when Gringoire saw the beautiful gypsy ESMERALDA in the THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE-DAME: “If he had had all Peru in his pocket, he would certainly have given it to this dancer; but Gringoire had not Peru in his pocket; and besides, America was not yet discovered. (p. 66)

This is the actress MAUREEN O’ HARA (1939) as Esmeralda in the film HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. Who with eyes and heart in breast could not fall in love with such a smile?

Shakespeare believed in love at first sight and described it beautifully:

“Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”

The Finnish author Mila Waltari believed in love at first sight. By the way he was a favorite author of Cari Munro’s Spanish father Carlos Perez (Juanita Perez told me and had his book in Spanish translation). I never met him of course but talked to his father Don Benigno in 1973 and 1976 and I own a book that belonged to Carlos called the LAST OF THE MOHICANS in Spanish.
Waltari wrote:
“Today I saw you and spoke to you for the first time.
It was like an earthquake; everything in me was overturned, the graves of my heart were opened and my own nature was strange to me.
I am forty, and I believed I had reached the autumn of life.
I had wandered far, known much and lived many lives.
The Lord had spoken to me, manifesting Himself in many ways; to me angels had revealed themselves and I had not believed them. But when I saw you I was compelled to believe, because of the miracle that happened to me.”

Arthur Conan Doyle believed in love at first sight:
    “From the first day I met her, she was the only woman to me. Every day of that voyage I loved her more, and many a time since have I kneeled down in the darkness of the night watch and kissed the deck of that ship because I knew her dear feet had trod it. She was never engaged to me. She treated me as fairly as ever a woman treated a man. I have no complaint to make. It was all love on my side, and all good comradeship and friendship on hers. When we parted she was a free woman, but I could never again be a free man.” (From the Return of Sherlock Holmes).

Here is love at first sight that is unrequited. It happens sometimes. The person is married. The circumstances are too difficult the age difference is too big. I met a beautiful woman who was very fond of me but she was a youthful 42 and I was 19. We parted as friends. And I thought I had no one in the world to love so I wrote (true) to my Spanish friend Cari whom I had not seen in two years but with whom I carried on a regular correspondence from 1973 until 1982!

Of course, the idea is romantic. Wonderfully romantic but then I have always been a romantic. Italian operas are romantic. Scottish and Irish songs are romantic and are full of stories of the FORCE OF DESTINY. Today I think we are living in a more hedonistic and less romantic age and dating is very difficult. It almost seems too good to be true that an instant attraction and electric feeling could change our lives forever. And the old saying is very true: “Better to have loved and lost then never have loved at all.” So if you feel that strong attraction you should act on it. Robert Burns sang of one of the most beautfiul girls he had ever seen:

    This Mary Morison – I first heard it sung in concert and later on recordings by Kenneth McKellar.

This is love at first sight:

O Mary, at thy window be !
It is the wish’d, the trysted oor.
Those smiles and glances let me see,
That mak the miser’s treasure poor,
Sae blithely wad I bide the stoure,
A weary slave frae sun tae sun,
Could I the rich reward secure –
The lovely Mary Morison.

Yestreen, when to the trembling string
The dance gaed thro, the lichted ha’,
Tae thee my fancy took its wing,
I sat, but neither heard nor saw:
Tho’ this was fair, and that was braw,
And yon the toast o’ a’ the toon,
I sigh’d and said amang them a’ –
‘They are na Mary Morison!’

O Mary canst thou wreck his peace
Wha for thy sake wad gladly dee?
Or canst thou break that hert o’ his
Whase only faut is loving thee?
If love for love thou wilt na gie,
At least be pity to me shown:
A thought ungentle canna be
The thought o’ Mary Morison.

She was the TOAST OF THE TOWN and immortalized by the poem. I have been to her gravestone. In Mauchline, Scotland not far from the tavern where Burns wrote the poem in her honor.

Poor wee lassie! She died of a fever and no one could save her and that was the end of sweet Mary Morrison! Not even 21 and never married! Sad she had many gifts but health and strength of body were not hers. .But I think she must have felt the thrill of being loved and admired as least for a while and perhaps was waiting for her majority to say yes. The story of Mary Morrison tells us that no one is master of the line of his or her life.

When you find love TAKE IT! Don’t delay! You may never have another chance.

Poosie Nancy’s one of Robert Burns’s pubs. I have been there and had dinner and a few drinks afterward. I recited his poems and as the evening wore on we walked to the graveyard to see the stone of MARY MORRISON:

English should be America’s national and official language.

By Richard K. Munro, MA

Ilan Stavans wrote in a recent WSJ article “How We the People Built American English (March 3, 2023) that Theodore Roosevelt was on his deathbed when he “announced there was only one language for Americans and that was the English language.”  Stavans  gives the impression that TR was an “English-only” monoglot when in fact TR though an American nationalist was a multilingual cosmopolitan thinker.   TR was fluent in German and French and could get by in Portuguese and Spanish.  But TR was aware of the dangers of a chaotic polyglot society and for that reason, he felt English should be America’s national and official language.     In his book, The People’s Tongue on which his essay was based Stavans asserts that Proposition 227 was passed in 1998 “eliminating the teaching of students in any language other than English.”   This assertion, which has been made many times by opponents of Official English is false.  Prop 227 had no effect on the teaching of Foreign Languages (a requirement in California high schools) or Dual Immersion k-6 schools with parental permission.  A well-known example is the Sherman Academy in San Diego.     Official English is not English-only and allows for flexibility on the federal, state and local level.

TR was aware of the constitutional implications of a romantic bilingualism or multilingualism that could lead to separatism, inter-ethnic violence even civil war.   E. D. Hirsch has noted “multilingualism enormously increases cultural fragmentation, civil antagonism, illiteracy, and economic-technological ineffectualness.”    Some bilingual societies have been successful or reasonably successful. We have the example of the Roman Empire, the Vatican,  Finland and the Aland Islands,   Switzerland , Canada,  Belgium, Malta, Philippines, India, South Africa and Spain. The European Union has 24 official languages.   English remains an official EU language despite the fact the UK has left the EU.   The EU embraces official multilingualism and therefore has no one official language for its laws or constitution.   This is a critical problem for  EU because there is no  universal agreement on translations and interpretations. The Vatican has Italian and Latin as official languages but the Church produces liturgical texts in Latin, which provide a single clear point of reference for translations into all other languages.  Less successful bilingual/multilingual states over time include the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sri Lanka, Ruanda, Lebanon, Cyprus,  Kenya and the Ukraine. 

Diane Ravitch wrote of America as “a society that is racially diverse requires…a conscious effort to build shared values and ideals among its citizenry.”  This should include the recognition that English is and should be our official national language.    These shared values of America’s Union will be forged by our public and quasi-public institutions, which include our military, our sports, our houses of God, our press and media, voluntary organizations. our jury box and courthouse as well as our schools. The language of the rule books, Federal courts and juries must be in English (though of course interpreters can be used when necessary).  In addition, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, contracts, official documents, our laws and constitutions must be in English (though translations can be provided).    

So “official English” does not mean “English only.”  States may use other languages or translations for public safety.   States, even states with official English, may offer DMV tests in multiple languages if they choose.  The states and federal government can allow and encourage dual immersion schools and the teaching of foreign languages.   Denny’s can offer (voluntarily) menus in as many languages as it likes so as to welcome tourists and others.  

However, we as a society must be aware of the costs of official bilingualism/multilingualism both monetary and political. We dare not take our freedom, our prosperity, and our national unity for granted. America’s democratic pluralist experiment continues but it may yet be defeated if we do not exercise care.   Even Stavans says  “to create a nation, you need a language. “ The USA is an English-speaking nation and we should enshrine this fact nationwide in law.     This is why Pro English supports making English our official national language.

Richard K. Munro, MA

Teacher of  Spanish, English and history

Member of the Board of Pro English.


20 F Street NW 7th Floor

Washington, DC 20001


By RIchard K. Munro

More Notes on Latins, culture, and Language

I never grew up with Mexican jokes; growing up in the New York metropolitan area there were , then, very few Mexicans and Mexican Americans.   I remember Tio Pepe was one of the few well-known restaurants which served any Mexican fare at all.   Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, and Cuban (Criollo) restaurants were much more common. I only made it through college by .99 cent and 1.99 cent plates of Arroz a la Cubana.   There was a strong Latin presence which included French-Canadians, Haitians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Brazilians, and Central and South Americans.  And of course these groups were mixed with Greeks (born in Panama) Portuguese (Born in Africa), Irish (born in South Africa), Jews born everywhere. I knew many Spanish-speaking Jews in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Some were from Argentina,, some from Cuba, some from Costa Rica. Some were of Greek/Jewish/Ladino origin. I knew a teacher born in Cuba whose family had been Ladino-speaking Jews in Salonika and Constantinople prior to 1914. Can anyone deny the world is one big bubbling melting pot?

There was still a fashion of ethnic jokes however and I noted many anti-Catholic stories in which the Irish priests were always drunk and turning up with choir boys in their beds who had been frogs. I noted that the Cubans and Brazilians were really the only fully integrated groups; almost all the African American friends and acquaintances I had were Latin (Latino). In New York, in the 1970s there was almost no nativist feeling and the concept of what was “Latin” was broader.  It’s possible that there was some anti-Gay feeling but I have no memory of that because no one ever talked about it. We were normal young people. The boys liked shapely young girls and vice-versa. Living in Greenwich Village one had some contact with the Gay Community. I had some friends who might have been Gay but they never talked about it or acted out in any way. I considered that to be someone’s personal business.

Many Spanish-speaking persons of color considered themselves Latinos and not Black. Among the common people, the terms used by people were Boricua, or Latin or in Spanish “Hispano o Latino”. Spanish-speaking people did not naturally use the term “Hispanic” however and of course, no one had ever heard of LATINX (sic)

It seems to me Cubans and Puerto Ricans were much more likely to call themselves “Hispano” . Cubans and Puerto Ricans usually have much closer ties to Spain being officially Spanish as recently as 1898. ‘

Hispanic is a relatively modern word -I only heard “Spanish” as a youth- is still rare beyond government and census documents.

Hispanic is still an artificial government term essentially invented circa 1970. . Spanish-speaking people did not naturally use the term “Hispanic” however and of course, no one had ever heard of LATINX (sic)

People, it seems to me, prefer to call themselves by their name of national origin which is natural.

It doesn’t bother me if people call me Irish (I am part Irish) but my people were Islanders and considered themselves Gaels or called themselves by their tribal or clan name. Clans were legally independent kingdoms or regions until 1746. There was much loyal to the Chief and a strong remembrance of the Stewarts.

My people did not consider themselves Europeans or British either. Europe was “Roinn-Eorpa” the mainland. British people to them were Welsh people and of course the Saxon was English. 

Anglo was never a word that meant anything to me but English and sometimes protestant as in the term Anglo-Irish. Anglo-American meant a person of English descent.

I must admit even to this day I prefer “English-speaking” to Anglo because I am not an Anglo-Saxon. But I am proudly an Anglophile as I am Hispanófilo.  My children are Latins or Hispanic Americans but I have never claimed to be what I am not.  The Anglo-Saxons were the traditional enemy of the Gael. Calling a Gael an Anglo-Saxon is like calling a Pole a Russian or an Alsatian a German. The Irish word for Irishman or Highlander is “Gael”(Gaidheal in “Erse”). 

 Even most “Germans” did not originate in “Germany” but other places such as Russia, Romania, Poland, Switzerland and Austria. 

But even Mexican Americans are a divided people. They are severely divided by class.  Mexico itself is as divided by class as England  or Spain today, perhaps more so as England is more egalitarian today.   

I see discrimination against those Mexicans who are, obviously, of African origin. I see discrimination against Mixtecos who do not speak Spanish well (they speak an indigenous language of Mexico). I see discrimination against Latins who do not Speak Spanish well.  

I remember a young girl in my class -a huerita (fair-skinned girl) who was 100% of Mexican ancestry was taunted at not being Mexican by MEXICAN BORN students because she spoke so little Spanish (her parents and grandparents speak Spanish, but she and her brothers and sisters so far removed from Mexico did not speak Spanish.) They called her “pocha.” “Pocha” is somewhat derogatory for someone who is a “faded” Mexican that is someone very Americanized (anglicized).

But her skin color had nothing to do with her language: I know many darker Hispanics who don’t speak a single word of Spanish and have completely distanced themselves from their Catholic heritage believing it is not an important part of their heritage.  

Once again, as a Gael, I find this strange because my identification as a Christian is the single most important and ancient part of my heritage.  My surname, like many Gaelic surnames, is a Christian surname with a specific meaning and is a direct allusion to the early days of the Saints and Scholars of my people.  

I could not imagine being a Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition without acknowledging my debt to the martyrs and saints who preserved and protected Western Civilization and the word itself.  So for me, my Catholic heritage is something indestructible and essential even more so than my national origin, citizenship or “race”.   As a young man I dated young women of many races and backgrounds but most were Christian and most were Roman Catholic. I never found the Catholic church to be segreated place quite the contrary. “Here come the Catholics” said Joyce , “here comes everybody.

I still have difficulty with the American idea that race is a color and not a culture or nationality.  Exactly what do you call the grandchildren of a woman of Spanish, American and Filipino origin whose grandchildren are -brace yourselves- of Mexican, Irish, German,  Polish, and Lithuanian origin?  

It should of no surprise to anyone that this woman is multilingual -she grew up in the Philippines and is a native Spanish speaker as well as a Tagalog (Filipino) speaker that none of her grandchildren speak anything but English.  

What do you call them except Americans?  

When my grandfather spoke of the French race or the English race or the German race or the Turkish race or the Spanish race -I am quite sure he never used the word “Latin” or “Hispanic” his entire life he was speaking of cultures, languages and nationalities not what Americans call “race.”  

I still laugh when I recall him speaking of the “Gallachers” as a “treacherous race.”  By that, he meant they were not “leal n’ true men” from the North but a people apart -urban deracinated Irishmen who no longer had the traditional Gaelic values.

To a “Teuchter” like him they were “soupers” or “pochos.”  Similarly, ladies who were highly anglicized were “South o’ the Dyke” Lassies in other words more English than the English themselves.  The men were “toffs” Every community has its terms to identify “the other”. Every community has it words of self-identification. And at different times people try to pass into one culture or another. Cultural diffusion and assimilation happen over time and over the generation.

CASABLANCA movie notes by MR MUNRO


classroom teacher of history, Spanish, English and ESL from 1987-2021



CASABLANCA…MOVIE NOTES for Mr. Munro’s Seniors










Humphrey Bogart

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman AS ILSA LUND

Paul Henreid


Claude Rains


1)    Casablanca appeals to such a wide audience because it is a skilled mix of many genres:

a)     It is a romantic film (one of the great romantic films of all time)

b)    It is a war film that clearly highlights “why we fight” (the Allied Cause vs. Axis)

c)     It is a drama of intrigue and spies involving terror, murder and flight.

d)    It is a drama of D.P’s (Displaced Persons or immigrants) trying to get visas

e)     It is a character study centering on Rick Blaine (Bogart)

f)    It is about seduction

and sexual abuse: characters are

coerced into sexual activity they don’t want to do.

g)    It is also a musical journey into popular and national music of the time making the film almost a musical.

h)     It is full of ironic lines and comedy relief (the pickpocket; the elderly couple trying to speak “perfect English” like an American; Captain Renault undecided how Urgarte died).

What part of Casablanca appeals to YOU the most?


2)    Diegetic sound is the sound that you might logically expect to hear in a film scene such as the dialogue, the singing, the clinking of glasses, the sound of a gunshot.  Non-diegetic sound is clearly dubbed or added artificially to a film –the characters can’t hear it. This includes the music score. The leitmotif

[1] of “As Time Goes By” is very powerful. So is the scene with the dueling nationalistic songs the Die Wacht Am Rhein [2](Nazi song) and the Marseilles (song of the French Revolution).  Consider the role of music within the film (diegetic and non-diegetic).

What effect does music have on our understanding of key scenes?  




a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation. “As Time Goes By” is a leitmotif in



Dear fatherland {VATERLAND}, put your mind at rest,–dear fatherland, put your mind at rest,–Firm stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!––Firm stands, and true, the Watch, the Watch at the Rhine!

Much, as your waters without end, Have we our heroes’ blood to spend…

…the German youth, pious, and strong


the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

 Everyone is in need of redemption. Our natural condition was characterized by guilt: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23

). See also

Psalm 130:7-8

Luke 2:38

; and

Acts 20:28


  Catharsis: release, liberation , purification

3) One of the things that make Casablanca great is that it speaks to that place in each of us that seeks some kind of inspiration or redemption

[3]. On some level, every character in the story receives the same kind of catharsis[4]

and their lives are irrevocably changed. Rick’s change is the most obvious in that he learns to live again, instead of hiding from a lost love. He is reminded that there are things in the world more noble and important than he (such as freedom; the Allied cause) and he wants to do his part.  Symbolically he represents isolationist America which is turning like FDR (after the Atlantic Charter) to Britain, Churchill, De Gaulle and the Allied Cause.

a)     . Louis (Captain Renault), the womanizer and opportunistic scoundrel gets his redemption by seeing the sacrifice Rick makes and is inspired to choose a side, where he had maintained careful neutrality so as to save his own skin (and profit from the situation).

b)     The stoic  Resistance leader Victor Lazlo gets his redemption by being shown that while thousands may need him to be a hero, there is someone he can rely upon when he needs inspiration in the form of his wife, who was ready to sacrifice her happiness for the chance that he might survive the Nazi terror.

c)      Ferrari, the local organized crime leader gets a measure of redemption by pointing Ilsa and Lazlo to Rick as a source of escape even though there is nothing in it, materially, for him.  We cannot but think that his heart is touched by the beauty and tender love of Ilsa.

d)     Ilsa herself has a bad conscience; she has kept her sin (her adultery, her temptation) from her husband and realizes she can overcome this if she accepts her husband’s forgiveness. Rick may be sexier than the older Lazlo but Lazlo has fame and money and will probably offer a better life than Rick.  She won’t stay 26 forever!

e)     Then there is the beautiful young Bulgarian refugee; she is considering cheating on her husband with Captain Renault to get the exit VISA. We have to think she is also offering herself to Rick as well.  Rick is so moved by her suffering that he lets her husband win at roulette (this may be symbolic of American generosity in Lend Lease for the Allies).

Is redemption important for young people?  Can a former Nazi find redemption? (Think Schlindler)  Can the bad student today or the drug abuser of today or the greedy businessman (think Scrooge) really change their lives?  What about you?



Casablanca shows a number of competing motivations through Character positions. Think about what motivates each character (money, power, sex, friendship, patriotism)and how some of them are actively repressing desires and the costs and benefits(opportunity costs) of these courses of action. How do the characters give a modern audience a deeper insight as to the suffering of the DP’s (Displaced Persons or Refugees without papers) and what it must have been like during WWII?




March 2023

PAUL JOHNSON OFTEN WROTE FOR COMMENTARY in fact I believe the first time I heard of him my father shared his copy of COMMENTARY and recommended Paul Johnson to me circa late 1960s early 1970s


Dear Sir/Madam:

Andrew Robert’s valedictory for his late friend Paul Johnson captured the essence of the soul and great humanity of the man.

We all know Johnson as world-class author who wrote many times for COMMENTARY and who published highly readable and important books such as THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS, THE INTELLECTUALS, A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN and a personal favorite I have read many times THE QUEST FOR GOD.     His books sold millions and were translated into over 20 languages.

Some years ago, I was working with Andrew Roberts doing research and helping him with the galleys of his book CHURCHILL: Walking with Destiny.    Paul Johnson happened to come up and I mentioned to Andrew that years prior I had written a letter to Paul Johnson concerning A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.  

I had noted some mistakes in chronology and made some suggestions on how Johnson could make a good book even better.   To my surprise  Paul Johnson had honored me with a signed personal letter.    He thanked me for my suggestions and references to sources he had not known.   Johnson said he would try to incorporate them in a future edition of his work and that he really appreciated my loyal readership and my attention to detail.

Andrew Roberts said to me “that is just like Paul.  Always kind and generous with others.”    

I am nobody, a retired rural schoolmaster. I am not a scholar of high degree.  

But I will never forget how PAUL JOHNSON treated me with respect as a serious person.  I will cherish his letter to me.

PAUL JOHNSON was a great man who was willing to learn not only from books but also from the man in the street, from old and young, from fellow parishioners, from Jewish scholars and rabbis and from citizens all over the world of many faith traditions and languages in the Republic of Letters.   

Paul Johnson is gone from us.  But his pleasant voice, deep learning and joie de vivre endure in his books and taped interviews for instruction and as an example for us today and for future generations.   He shall not wholly die.


William (Johnson) Cory. 1823–1892
759. Heraclitus
THEY told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead, 
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed. 
I wept as I remember’d how often you and I 
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky. 
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,         5
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest, 
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake; 
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.

Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter, four-part poem by Federico García Lorca, written in Spanish as “Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías” (“Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías”) and published in 1935. Each part of the poem is written in a different poetic meter, and each addresses a different aspect of the goring and death of a bullfighter who had been Lorca’s friend. A haunting and powerful elegy, it is Lorca’s greatest poem. It contains the famous insistent refrain “A las cinco de la tarde” (“At five in the afternoon”). THIS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST MODERN ELEGIES


Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías – Federico García Lorca

4. Alma ausente

No te conoce el toro ni la higuera,

ni caballos ni hormigas de tu casa.

No te conoce el niño ni la tarde

porque te has muerto para siempre.

No te conoce el lomo de la piedra,

ni el raso negro donde te destrozas.

No te conoce tu recuerdo mudo

porque te has muerto para siempre.

El otoño vendrá con caracolas,

uva de niebla y montes agrupados,

pero nadie querrá mirar tus ojos

porque te has muerto para siempre.

Porque te has muerto para siempre,

como todos los muertos de la Tierra,

como todos los muertos que se olvidan

en un montón de perros apagados.

No te conoce nadie. No. Pero yo te canto.

Yo canto para luego tu perfil y tu gracia.

La madurez insigne de tu conocimiento.

Tu apetencia de muerte y el gusto de su boca.

La tristeza que tuvo tu valiente alegría.

Tardará mucho tiempo en nacer, si es que nace,

un andaluz tan claro, tan rico de aventura.

Yo canto su elegancia con palabras que gimen

y recuerdo una brisa triste por los olivos.



(please note this version has only a fraction of the lyricism and emotion of the original).

Absent Soul

The bull knows you not, nor the fig tree,
nor the horses, nor even the ants in thine own house.
The child and the afternoon know thee not
because thou hath died now and forever.

The back of the stone knows thee not
nor the black silk,

where thou wert smashed into pieces

Thy mute memory does not know thee
because thou hath died now and forever

The autumn will come again with snails,
juicy grapes and clustered hills,
but no one would want to look into thine eyes
because thou hath died now and forever.

Because thou hath died now and forever,
like all the dead of the earth,
like all the dead who are now neglected

Just like a pile of dogs! snuffed out dead dogs!.

Nobody knows thee. No. But I shall sing of thee!

I will sing of thy style and grace
Of the great maturity of thy intelligence
Of thine appetite for death despite its taste in thy mouth.
The sadness within thy happy courage!

Many years will pass – if ever-before there might be born
an Andalusian so distinctly individual, so rich in adventure!
I sing of his elegance with words that groan,
and I remember a breeze so sad across the olive groves.


By Richard K. Munro, MA

Richard K. Munro with star students!

Richard K. Munro with a star Chinese student. She went from 0-to 100 in three years!
The author second from the left at age 17 in SORIA Spain with the University of Northern Iowa Summer in Spain
You could say this movie started it all! DISTANT DRUMS the first movie I ever saw in Spanish.
Examples of Scots dialect

I have studied foreign languages for most of my life. I have also taught AP Spanish, Spanish for Native Speakers, and English as a Second Language to learners from many backgrounds. I began to learn Spanish when I was eight years old. My father would read to me the Spanish language ads on the New York City Subway. I would repeat after him and after a while, through repetition, I memorized a series of simple phrases. ¡ Cuidado! la vía del tren es peligrosa! (BE CAREFUL! The train track is perilous or dangerous! )  So began my early language learning experiences.  They have continued, essentially all of my life and I continue to learn new languages while reviewing the old ones I have learned.

My father taught me how to count in Spanish (and Tagalog). My father had studied Latin, French and German in high school and college so he taught himself the basics of Spanish and Tagalog while serving in Puerto Rico and the Philippines.  He served in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps and almost all of his cargadores (laborers) were native Filipinos who had a little Spanish but virtually no English.   His foremen were  Malaking Tony (Big Tony) and Maliit Tony (Little Tony).    The numbers of Spanish and Tagalog are the same phonetically except that orthography was changed to make up for letters that are not part of the Tagalog or Filipino alphabet. For example, “cuatro” (4) is written in Tagalog as “kuwatro” “cinco” (5)as “singko,” “seis” (6) as “sais,” “ocho” (8) as “otso,” “nueve” (9) as “nuwebe,”  and “diez” (10) as “diyes” and so forth.    His men all called him Mbuti Teniente (the Good Lieutenant).    He was one of the few American officers who learned the local language; he attended weddings and baptisms and was very close to the local community which had a Spanish priest and an Irish priest.    He was there on July 4, 1946 when the Philippines voted for independence.    Malaking Tony and Maliit Tony were very unhappy at the result even ashamed.    They told my father -with tears in their eyes- “Teniente if all Americanos like you we put another star on the flag!”  There is no question that my father felt that he owed his life to the loyalty and courage of such men.   The philia love they achieved as comrades was made possible by communicating in common languages Spanish and Tagalog.   My father always said knowing another language could save your life. 

My father used to say to me (frequently) “Halika rito, Ricardo! (come here, Ricky) or in Spanish Ven aquí   !   Kamusta ka (How are you!)  or ¿Cómo está? Bilisan mo (hurry up) or de prisa!  Bakit hindi ka nagtatrabaho (why aren’t you working!) ¿ por qué no trabajas?   mabuti ! Good!  Bueno!

My father’s business dealing took him to Puerto Rico and other Spanish-speaking countries and I had to good fortune to accompany him.  I got to hear him ask for directions (todo derecho STRAIGHT AHEAD the man pointed NOT TO THE RIGHT) order in restaurants and we went to baseball games (la pelota) at Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.  We saw Roberto Clemente play in Winter Ball and I called out to him in Spanish, and he smiled and waved back. Back in New York, we listened to baseball (and soccer games) on the radio in Spanish.   In those years all the Yankee games and the World Series were broadcast in Spanish, and we would listen to the World Series simultaneously in English and Spanish. Buck Canel (the baseball and sports announcer) was thus one of my early Spanish teachers. First came the names and the numbers and then the baseball and soccer jargon.  Of course, at the stadium, I found it useful to use Spanish to talk to Spanish-speaking players like Felipe Alou and Rico Carty and so obtain their autographs.  Better than any autograph was the friendly interaction with a baseball hero.   A language is truly a bond that unites men (humanity).   If one speaks another’s native language one has obtained a shortcut to that person’s heart and sympathy.  Mar an teanga tá an croí the Irish say: “as the tongue so is the heart!”

While visiting Spain father took me to an adventure film at the old Rex theater on the Gran Via. It was dubbed in Spanish.  The film was DISTANT DRUMS (Tambores Lejanos). It was the first time I had seen Gary Cooper in the movies and a big screen technicolor western. It was the first movie I had ever seen in Spanish.  It was a revelation.  I only understood it in part, but I was able to follow the story and even picked up some more Spanish words. The theater had a beautiful painted marquee in Spanish.  The marquee my father read it out loud to me said I still remember La mejor creación  de GARY COOPER (Gary Cooper’s greatest creation).  My father told the ticket taker in Spanish  “Uno Sólo  el peligro fue la mejor. “(High Noon) who responded Vd. Lleva la razon pero esta es muy buena!  High Noon  was probably Coop’s best but this Florida adventure was great fun as it featured Seminole Indians, pirates, alligators, and wild fauna of all types.   Sort of a Mogambo goes to the Everglades.  Yes, I began to learn the animal names in Spanish!  The film featured the famous Castillo San Marcos!

Later in New York we occasionally went to foreign language movies and later we saw DVDs that were dubbed or VO with English or Spanish subtitles.  Even today I often see movies in foreign languages just to practice and expose myself to new languages.  Recently I saw a good WW2 movie  on Netflix (with English subtitles) called  Narvik (Norwegian: Kampen om Narvik lit. ’The Battle for Narvik’)   The languages used in the film were German, Norwegian and English.  The main character (Kristine Hartgen) spoke all three.  It worked as a patriotic adventure film but also was a rare example of a film that demonstrated the usefulness of being multilingual.  I know a little German and have never studied Norwegian but found myself picking up words and phrases. I have seen some films like THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI in five languages.    Netflix is an excellent resource and has many languages.   I recommend watching in the VO (original version) with English subtitles then a dubbed version also with closed captions or subtitles in English or the target language.  

So I cannot remember a time when I did not speak or understand at least a little of other languages.     My mother could speak (and sing) in several languages).   My father was a great lover of opera, so I heard, as a boy many operas and art songs in Russian, Italian, French, German, and some in Spanish.   My uncles, both graduates of Columbia University and WW2 veterans were fluent in German and often visited.  Our next door neighbor Frank David, also a WW2 veteran was a German Jew and naturally a native German speaker.   He personally witnessed Kristallnacht  or the Night of Broken Glass.  I was fascinated to witness them speak about their German experiences which included the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.    Speaking German my uncle probably saved the lives of young German boys press-ganged into the SS in the final days of the war.   He and his men refused to take them POWS and returned them to their mothers.   Frank David served in the US Army as an interpreter.  His family escaped because of his father’s international business dealings and savings invested in Switzerland.   But it was a close thing.  The Nazis confiscated their car, their house, and German savings.   Once again, a multilingual family was able to maneuver and adapt and so survived.  Frank’s brother (Albert) became a professor of English at an American university specializing in Chaucer and Old English.  

My father had a vast personal library of foreign language books.  I inherited the Spanish, Latin, and Greek books my sister inherited the German and French books.   He also had LP’s of poetry such as Moses Hades reading in Latin, some ancient Greek, German, French,  Garcia Lorca in Spanish, plus complete Linguaphone Spanish and Portuguese sets (Books with 50 recorded lessons each on 45s).   So my father was an amateur linguist who could read, write and speak (in order of his fluency)

  1. French  (He read Zola,  Martin Du Gard, Victor Hugo, Moliere, Flaubert, Proust)
  2. German (He read Goethe, Mann,  Hesse, Heine, Schiller, Rilke)
  3. Latin   (Caesar, Cicero, Vergil, Horace, Catullus Ovid Seneca)
  4. Ancient Greek (some Modern Greek) New Testament, Homer, Euripides,  Sappho, Plato, Aeschylus, Sophocles , Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius , Xenophon, Thucydides, Callimachus
  5. Italian (he read Dante in the original)
  6. Spanish (He read Cervantes, Machado, Garcia Lorca in the original)
  7. Russian (He read Pushkin and Tolstoy in the original)
  8. Tagalog

Greek and Russian were the most difficult because of the alphabets.  But of course, the Russian alphabet is derived from Greek so knowing Greek is an advantage in learning Russian. Like my grandfather (who served in the British Army) my father knew a little spoken Yiddish, Arabic, Hindi, and Punjabi.  My father was a little ashamed that he knew so little Gaelic the language of his grandparents, but in his time, Gaelic was not studied in schools.  Gaelic has a reputation (underserved) as being a “hard language”.   But it is phonetic along its own lines and has only ten irregular verbs.  Late in life, my father took an interest in Gaelic place names, slogans, and Gaelic words in the Scots dialect (which he knew quite well).  He enjoyed it when I read and interpreted Gaelic poetry and songs for him.   He very much enjoyed the SONGS OF THE HEBRIDES.   However, my father felt studying Gaelic or Latin was interesting but not “Big Languages” like Spanish or English to be studied formally with university degrees.  The primary law of economics is scarcity.  One had scarce money and limited time so one should be credentialed in “Big Languages” and not spend too much time and money on “small languages.”    So, my early language learning years were dedicated principally to English, Spanish, and Latin then German and Portuguese but I always maintained an interest in Scottish Gaelic and studied it on the side.  Of course, it was with some regret I abandoned the classics in college (Greek and Latin) but for someone like me who had no money and a need to earn his daily bread, English and Spanish were much more practical.   There are for example over 60,000 Spanish teachers in the USA alone. There are about 1,000,000 ESL teachers plus over 1,250,000 English teachers.    I have taught in all three areas.   I found there was a great demand for certified English teachers who were trained as foreign language teachers and bilingual in Spanish.

So rather than forbidding Gaelic, my father encouraged me to study Gaelic as a hobby.     He bought me my first Gaelic book TEACH YOURSELF GAELIC and Dwelly’s Gaelic-English Dictionary at Rizzoli’s bookstore in New York.  But the language he encouraged the most was Spanish a language that was spoken every day in New York and many places in the USA and the Americas.

My father was very fond of the series TEACH YOURSELF BOOKS.   They are widely available and affordable.  I think they are a great supplement to any language study.     My father had the TY (I still have these original volumes) in Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Italian, German, Scottish Gaelic, Irish (Gaelic), Spanish and Latin.   Many come with recordings, but I use them primarily for reading practice and grammar explanations.   I highly recommend the Teach Yourself Books (and dictionaries).

I learned from my father and the many wonderful foreign language teachers I had in the USA and Spain that:

  1. Learning languages is fun.  Language learning can be a very absorbing pastime. And of course, it is always useful to communicate with others when one travels. Yes, it can be hard work but believe me there are a lot of laughs along the way.  I think it was Woody Allen who joked that being bisexual immediately doubles your chances for a date on a Saturday night!  Similarly, being bilingual or multilingual makes it far easier to meet and date, and do business with a wide variety of individuals.   People, customers, and business associates are usually favorably impressed by your kindness and seriousness of purpose in understanding their culture and dealing with them.    The maître d’s ,aunts and prospective mothers-in-law genuinely liked me, trusted me more and eagerly fed and entertained me because I made valiant attempts to speak their native tongue.  Speaking another language made dating, business dealings and diplomacy much smoother.  I have struck up friendships with musicians and artists by writing to them in their native languages (never using English).
  2. Knowing a foreign language (especially a “Big Language” like English or Spanish) is practical and a credential just like certification in computers, typing or a degree in accounting or chemistry.  It’s worth something on your resume. In my own life, I have worked for major banks, coached immigrant youth, served in the military worked for ETS and worked in schools and colleges.  One skill that gave me an edge was my skill in language. I could work the phones in Spanish or English.  I could work in customer service or interpret.  I could work as a Tour Guide.  I have been to Toledo and the Prado Museum, for example, dozens of times.
  3. The earlier one is introduced to a language the better.   The way a child learns its first (or second language) is a very good method.  A child learns grammar and vocabulary unconsciously by listening to and interacting with speakers of a language.  The younger a child is the more likely they can assimilate the accent of a native speaker.   Unfortunately, that is not possible for most of us!  But there is no shame whatsoever in having a slight foreign accent.  In fact, if one speaks clearly, I think a slight foreign accent can be charming even exotic.   I had a former student who studied engineering at Cal Poly. He had been an English learner and in the 9th grade hardly knew a word of English.  He concentrated, persevered, and studied hard.  He became fluent in English.  In fact, while at college a professor asked him what part of Canada he was from and then what private academy he had studied at.  His English was so good he didn’t think he was Hispanic!   Things that work with children also work with adults.  We can learn a lot by listening to and interacting with native speakers.  And we adults have advantages, however, that children do not have which helps us learn multiple languages.  We can read and study more easily.   Also, adults can understand grammar and the relationship between languages more easily.   We know that every language builds complex words from the simple basic roots of a language.    I know that English helps one learn German languages and the relationship of Romance languages with English and each other.  Some language teachers place little or no emphasis on accentuation or grammar. This is a mistake if carried to an extreme. It is not necessary for the average learner to be as expert in a language as a teacher or professional translator. My old Spanish teacher told me that “accents were but the shine on the car but verbs were the motor!”  But grammar and orthography are important.   Knowing a standard language and correct grammar is not so much to create elegant speech as it is to make clear what the relationship is among words. Grammar and diction link words together and give them precise meanings.  Therefore, we must understand grammar to a greater or lesser extent.   I never understood grammar until I studied Latin and Spanish.  But it began to be clear to me when I studied foreign languages and began learning moods, tenses, and parts of speech.  When one learns a foreign language, one learns more about one’s native language.
  • 4) Learning languages requires more than anything else steady attention and effort.   To become competent in a foreign language one must make a serious almost daily commitment over a long period of time -usually years.   You must like the language you are studying and maintain a positive attitude.  As the Gaels say  “beag is beag is fhearr an ceum mor.”  Little by little every day -ten or fifteen minutes is better than one big step once a week or once a month. There is no such thing as “instant Spanish” or “instant English.”  When I study a new language, I keep daily notes books of new vocabulary and make study cards.    I don’t always take notes, however.  In the early morning or at night in bed, I do some review listening and speaking exercises and don’t worry about taking notes. However, during my daily language sessions at my desk, I have a cup of sharpened pencils and colored pencils plus my Teach Yourself grammars and Collins dictionaries at hand.  I often interrupt my Duolingo sessions to look up words in the dictionary to learn (and write out) related words and additional nuances or translations.   In Linguaphone, the text was illustrated, and the pictures helped make the meaning of the sentences clear.  Using pictures and color coding is a very good help to language learning.  A wonderful resource for language learning is the colorful series My First Thousand Words series by Usborne.  It is an excellent (and humorous) supplement.   One can buy it new or find used versions on ABE books.   It is available in major languages such as Spanish, English, and French but also in Latin, Hebrew, and Irish (Gaelic).  I have several and use color coding to put in translations of other languages. For example, in my Irish book, I have written in the Scottish Gaelic equivalents in red ink (the two languages are closely related). In my Spanish book, I have written the Italian equivalents.
  • 5) If one wants to gain a high level of fluency sooner or later, one must immerse oneself in the target language.   I was a good high school student (I studied Latin and five years of Spanish) But what really helped me was spending one entire summer -almost every day-   listening to all 50 lessons of my father’s Linguaphone course in Spanish.  The following fall I was enrolled in Spanish III and everyone including my teacher noticed my improved Spanish vocabulary and accent. My high school AP Spanish teacher, a native Cuban Mr. Eli Gorelick encouraged me to seek advanced studies in Spain.   Then I spent another summer studying in Spain for ten weeks via the University of Northern Iowa’s summer program in Spain.  In that ten-week time, I was totally immersed in Spanish.   I later studied three more summers in Spain gaining my MA in Spanish. Later I lived and worked in Madrid for almost two years.  I used to go months at a time without speaking or hearing any English at all (I read newspapers, and books and corresponded in English however). Living in a Spanish-speaking country where Spanish was a prestige language was a great experience.  I became an adjunct professor for a local Junior College and also for ETS in Spanish and for many summers graded recordings of students and student essays. Since that time, I have heard or spoken or read Spanish every day of my life. 

My father used recordings to help him with his language learning. But primarily he read newspapers, periodicals and literature. He was interested in what Gilbert Highet called “culture languages”.  He rarely wrote or read anything in Tagalog or Chavacano (the Spanish creople language her hear in Manila in the 1940s. His interest in those languages was strictly utilitarian while he was on active service overseas.  But he enjoyed meeting speakers in those languages during his lifetime.   

Whatever system you use it is good to do listening, speaking, reading, and writing practice regularly.   I presently use or have used DUOLINGO in Latin, Modern Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Scottish Gaelic, and Italian. Other online programs are very good also and some people recommend Babbel.  I didn’t choose Babbel because they didn’t offer Latin and Scottish Gaelic, but Duolingo did. You can try Duolingo for free (I did for about six months) but eventually I subscribed to avoid ads and have more features.  I am a big fan of Duolingo but I supplement it with Teach Yourself books.  Be aware that some languages are more developed than others in Duolingo. Spanish, English, and Italian have more activities (Stories, dialogues, and readings) than Modern Greek or Scottish Gaelic.  Teach Yourself has wonderful resources and some (like New Testament Greek) are free to download.  Here are some links:

Teach Yourself

Duolingo – The world’s best way to learn a language

Babbel Live Exclusive Offer

Learn Languages with Pimsleur on the App Store (

For English Learners and for English literacy I used materials from

LANGUAGE! – Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum (Grades 4-12) (

Vocabulary Morphology Curriculum – Suffixes, Prefixes & Roots (

6) Learning a foreign language can benefit your health!  I think I was rather shy and withdrawn as a young boy. But learning a new language gave me the confidence to overcome shyness and psychological barriers and helped me to get to know people. When you are studying and using a new language you are exercising your brain. So, your brain becomes stronger.  Studying languages can even help one recover from a brain injury.   When my father was 63 he suffered a massive stroke and lost the ability to read and speak. It was devastating to him.  But he made an almost full recovery. I strongly believe my father’s dedication to language study may have helped him recover from his massive stroke.   Most of his nurses happened to be Filipino and they spoke Tagalog among themselves, and my father listened to them.   One morning after weeks of total silence he responded to them by speaking in Tagalog.  They were astonished! That was the first language he used after his stroke.  Then he began to speak the Scottish dialect (his boyhood tongue).   At first, he couldn’t speak American English -I remember he couldn’t remember to say “The boy bounces the ball” he said “the illie (lad) was a-stotin’ the ba’’ (Scots dialect).  Then gradually he began to understand and speak and read and write in American English. We all broke out laughing when we visited him one day and he said, a la Humphrey Bogart: “Si-down, pal and listen to the music.”   Gradually, he returned to studying and reading the languages he had studied. The doctor said it was a remarkable recovery and it was possible that my father’s white matter and language portion of his brain were very highly developed, so it might have helped his mind reconnect.    This theory has also been supported by studies at the University of Edinburgh.    In any case, studying a foreign language hinders not and can have many positive benefits.

The researchers found that when the brain is challenged when people say more than one language, and this experience will inspire cognitive reserve, which would enhance the brain’s ability to deal with damage caused by a stroke and other diseases. Bilingual people can switch between two languages, when they stop using one, it is necessary to activate another language to communicate,” Thomas Bak, one of the study authors at the University of Edinburgh, said, “This switch allows the brain to continuously evolving, thus becoming factors in helping stroke patients to have rehabilitation. Apart from showing better recovery on brain function after a stroke, bilinguals who are able to speak more than one language also perform better in stroke sequelae tests, including tests of attention, gather and organize information.

See also  How Learning a New Language Can Benefit Your Health (

Learning second language ‘slows brain ageing’ – BBC News

When one studies a foreign language the first thing you hear if you decide to study   English, Persian, Greek, Korean,  Turkish, Russian or Chinese people will say that language is “hard” or “easy”.      In realty one CAN make generalizations about languages but it is difficult to be accurate.     The most important factor determining whether a language is “hard” or “difficult” is not the foreign language itself but WHERE one is coming from.  Spanish is not hard if one already speaks Italian or Ladino.  Hebrew is not that difficult if you already speak a related language like Arabic.  Russian is easier if you speak Polish or Ukrainian.       German is easier if you speak English (especially Scots English).  Languages that are closely related to our own tend to be easier both in alphabet, in grammar and vocabulary.    Modern Greek is not that much harder than Italian or Spanish BUT learning a new alphabet is a strong affective filter.    I take twice as much time to study Modern Greek than Italian and feel compelled to take many more notes.   But Greek has the added benefit of teaching roots words that have entered many modern languages: chorus, poly-, bio-, hypnotic, myth, Bible, school, academy, idol, poet, poetry, rhetoric, aesthetic, music, rhythm,  hygienic, alphabet,  sympathetic, irenic, hubris, emphasis, antithesis, hypothesis, cosmos, onyx, copper (Cyprus), colon, delta, chaos, diploma, fantasy, phantom, thermos, ethos, dogma, stole, pneumonia, asthma, kudos, crisis, character, scene, pathos, zone, psyche, genesis, diagnosis, criterion, orchestra, idea, pragmatic, cinema, coma, thorax, dyspepsia, nectar, aphasia, echo, nemesis, hero, catastrophe, tyrant.   Even though Greek and Latin are not as commonly spoken or taught as previously they remain very powerful “culture languages” and therefore are of immense intrinsic interest.

The Spanish Alphabet

            When one learns a language the first thing one should do is determine what language family the language belongs to.    Most European languages come from a common linguistic heritage that language group called Indo-European.    Some of the oldest written languages in that language family are Sanskrit (from India),  Greek and Latin.   Indo-European languages subdivide into these families ROMANCE, GERMANIC, SLAVIC, INDIC, IRANIAN, CELTIC, HELLENIC (Greek) and ALBANIAN.  Let’s look more closely at some of the biggest sub-families and languages.   Romance languages include:

            French    Catalán       Spanish     Italian   Portuguese  Romanian

All of these languages derive from Latin and use a Latin alphabet.  In all of these countries, Latin remained an important culture language until relatively modern times.  If one speaks Spanish then Italian is relatively easy to speak, read and understand because the languages are so closely related.  The grammars of Romance languages are similar but most importantly a high proportion of words will be recognizable to speakers of another Romance language.  These words are called cognates.  More of this later. 

        One might ask if one is an English speaker, how does this help me?  English isn’t a Romance language it is a Germanic language.  But only about 40% of everyday words in English are Germanic.  About 60% of English words are of Greco-Latin origin.

Here are the Germanic languages:

German                          Afrikaans

Dutch                              Swedish

Icelandic                        English



 Another big language group is the Slavic which includes

Russian                          Serbian

Croatian                         Czech

Slovak                            Bulgarian

Ukrainian                        Polish

Other big Indo-European language families are Indic languages spoken in India and Pakistan such as Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi.   These languages do not use a Latin alphabet, but the spoken versions of these languages are relatively closely related to Spanish, English and yes, Gaelic.     I remember stories of the Highland soldiers in World War One speaking a Gaelic/Hindi/English patois with the Indian soldiers and being able to communicate on a basic level.    More recently I have had Punjabi speakers in my Spanish classes and many of them became top students.  For one thing, most were multilingual to start with (speaking English and Indian languages). If one speaks two or three languages it is easier to learn another!  Then they quickly realized how many Spanish words were similar to Hindi or Punjabi.   Later they invested in local gas stations, sandwich shops and retail stores and work in farming and many are completely fluent not only in English but in Spanish.

Linguaphone books come with a bilingual glossary to help teach the words of the lessons and readings.   There on online dictionaries also but I myself don’t want to open and close windows when I am listening to audible books or doing Duolingo. There is no question if one studies a foreign language, one needs access to a good dictionary. I think for beginners a small pocket dictionary is just fine (such as Collins Gem).   I occasionally use online dictionaries and even GOOGLE TRANSLATE but when I study, I am usually completely focused on the language I am studying.   I keep notebooks of vocabulary and write down new vocabulary.  I do this with a pencil.   I also use colored pencils to underline or star verb endings or grammar points or misspellings I make.   If a word is more difficult or completely new to me, I usually write it out three times (in pencil) then highlight or circle it in red pencil and add asterisks.    I also make little drawings (in color) of objects and animals such as FOUR RED CHAIRS , the  BLACK CHAINS,  THE YELLOW PENCILS,  GRAY SHARK or BLACK CAT, the ORANGES, the Green Book to help me.  I also use antonyms or synonyms or similar words to reinforce learning.  I use a forward slash to indicate opposite words such as EASY/DIFFICULT.  I use the equal symbol = to indicate translation or synonyms such as Problema=problem (also trouble).  I use (≠)The not equal sign (also called the inequality sign) to indicate a false cognate or a translation problem.  The Greek words  Αντιπαθητικός (antipathitikós/unlikeable)and συμπονετικόςd (symponetikós / likable)are antonyms but also are close cognates to English (simpatico /nice; sympathetic) and Spanish related words (simpático/antipático) .

When studying vocabulary cognate study is vital. I have many Spanish and English bilingual dictionaries on word usage and cognates that go “beyond” any basic dictionary.  According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of a cognate is “a word that has the same origin as another word, or is related in some way to another word.”   Three categories of cognate exist:

  1. Perfect cognates (cognados perfectos)  5-10%
  2. True cognates     (cognados verdaderos) 85-90%
  3. False cognates    (Cognados falsos) 5-10%

When the meaning, spelling, and sound is identical, as in animal and (elanimal,  we call them perfect cognates. The only difference is in pronunciation.

 A true cognate is a word that is “either spelled the same or similar and often sounds alike in both languages.” In other words, it’s similar but not identical.   Example include “action” in English and acción in Spanish.  Both words have similar sound and spelling and they (generally) have the same meaning (acción does mean “action,” but it can also mean “stock” or “share” in financial terms). 

Here are some other cognates:

Fiction ficción
PecadilloPecado (sin)
Colaborationla colaboración  

Usually, the more sophisticated the word it the more likely it is a true cognate or perfect cognate.  Common everyday words are more likes to be false cognates or partially false cognates.

 When one studies Dutch and German or Spanish, French, Italian or Portuguese one pitfall is the problem of false friends or false cognates.   False cognates are deceptive for appearing to be the same, but have unexpected different meanings.  These words can be totally different in meaning or partially false.  Here are some examples from Spanish:

  • Sin in Spanish means without and has no relationship whatsoever with the English noun “Sin”. 
  • Once (1) and once (11)
  • Library is not librería(bookstore). A library is a biblioteca
  • Grocery (food store) is not grosería rudeness or coarseness
  • Pan (skillet/ sartén is not pan (bread)
  • To rest is not “restar” which means to subtract and to deduct.
  • Red (color) is not “red” (net)
  • Out of control does not mean autocontrol (self control)
  • Embarrassed is not embarazda (pregnant)
  • Gracious is courteous but not gracioso (funny)

When in doubt assume the cognate is or could be a similar word or exactly the same. Some of these words represent direct borrowings from Latin or Greek like radio (la radio Sp. or ραδιόφωνο GR “radiophone”) and teléfono(Sp.) τηλέφωνο GR (tiléfono/telephone.  Of course, some slang English words used in German or Spanish or Modern Greek may not be standard words.   Time will tell.   I used to tell my students who often used the word “raite” (“ride”) that if someone wrote a Nobel Prize winning work called the “Último Raite de Arvin” (the Last Ride from Arvin then they could probably use it on the AP Spanish test but until then it was best to avoid that word however useful and stick to standard Spanish and say “paseo”  or simply “llevar en carro” or even medio de transporte.

Each language has its own special challenges or problems. Do you believe that English is easy or hard? Most would say English  is a very difficult language. It is like learning two languages at the same time.  Nabokov, who learned English as an adult said famously, “learning English was like moving from one darkened house to another on a starless night during a strike of candlemakers and torchbearers.” I think Nabokov captured exactly the fear and confusion of persons trying to learn English from scratch. Yet, Nabokov following another ESL student Joseph Conrad survived and became one of the great English language authors. Yes, English can be weird(peculiar). It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though! (yes, that is correct English!) Can anyone think that English is (facile) easy, that is to say it can be learned by a little effort or effortlessly? No. The truth is this: some things about English are easy and others are, to put it mildly, devilishly difficult. The grammar of English is relatively simple. The word order (syntax) of English is regular. However, spelling English words and pronouncing English words can be a challenge as compared to Spanish or German or Italian languages which are almost entirely phonetic. The expanse of English vocabulary and the variety of its dialects is daunting. Spanish has regional dialects but none is so far removed as English or American dialects. But English is not a remote or exotic language but a language firmly in the mainstream of European/Western languages.  Therefore, if we use an etymological or “historical” approach to vocabulary development it will help the English speaker learn Spanish or French words but, furthermore, since many common Spanish or French words have cognates in academic English. Similarly, a Spanish or French speaker can also better (ameliorate) his or her English vocabulary the same way.

Of course, English has an enormous vocabulary. It takes much reading and study to understand and acquire these words and learn to PRONOUNCE them clearly. But, compared to other languages its grammar is relatively simple. On the other hand, though English words may be easy to recognize and interpret, you have four jobs with every English word:

1)to understand the basic sense or meaning of a word (denotation)

2)to know how to pronounce it correctly; its diction (orthoepy)

3)To know how to spell the word (orthography)

 4) To understand additional senses of meanings of a word (connotations) or words that sound alike (homophones and homonyms!)

Number one and two are the most critical. Many people have difficulty with English spelling (#3) their entire lives. Spelling is just a matter of practice and simple memorization. Spanish is like a disciplined Roman Army organized, regular with very few silent letters.  English is more like a chaos of tribes or charismatic church revival by the river or clandestine poker game in a speakeasy. No one would ever say English was uniform or behaved like an Anglican tea or church service! English is more like a rodeo! Or New York baseball fans crying in unison, “BUM! BUM! BUM!” when the umpire made a bad call. Number four –connotations- is very important and comes from regular reading, study, and analysis of words. Besides learning the connotations of words the learner must learn many idioms (or expressions) plus attain a certain level of cultural literacy so as to understand references and allusions found in stories, articles, and books.

English has an extraordinary richness (or wealth) of vocabulary, idioms, and expressions. It is not unusual for a word to have many synonyms that mean the same or NEARLY the same thing but each word may have a different nuance or shade of meaning that gives that word a special tone or a positive or negative connotation. A house is a basic need or shelter, as is a residence or a habitation but a shack, hovel, shanty, cabin, tenement, wickiup, wigwam, teepee and Motel 6 do not evoke the same meaning as palace, mansion, palazzo, villa, country house, chateau, townhouse, penthouse apartment or Hilton Hotel. It should be obvious to anyone that the first group represents very humble habitations while the second group represents domiciles of varying degrees of luxury.

Reading English is not that difficult but understanding spoken English and speaking English clearly are difficult problems.    I will present shortly another essay specifically on HOW TO LEARN ENGLISH, to PRONOUNCE IT and TO SPELL IT.  




By RIchard K. Munro

THOMAS MUNRO, JR relaxing in the patio of his garden circa 1980

HW BRANDS: “As a rule, people don’t change their beliefs by being insulted or demeaned. They don’t become angels by being yelled at…”

I would say this is axiomatic.

Rule #1 in a civil society is to treat people civilly and with respect. This is one of the reasons why we are polite and why we learn other languages. Insisting that everyone ONLY speaks YOUR language and showing no interest in the language and cultures of others is not a way to make friends and influence people. If you REALLY want to change people it is usually best to shut up and pray for that person. That does more go than attacking and arguing with people. After all, you are not perfect either.

Rule #2 don’t go out of your way to insult people and their pastimes.

I don’t like bizarre hair or tattoos or profane language. Some sports don’t appeal to me. I certainly have zero interest in fantasy leagues and sports betting. But I don’t fight with people or argue with them. I avoid their company, yes, or ignore them. (It’s easy I am nearsighted). I don’t like golf but agree it has great charm and beauty. I have enjoyed miniature golf and have even played a few rounds myself, but I decided long ago I did not want to spend so much time and money away from home and family. I glance at the sports page for about 5 minutes. I am aware there are championships and leagues out there somewhere, but I am not obsessed with every team sport that there is.

I enjoy other pastimes more.

Rule#3 society and its norms have changed drastically, and I am not always happy about that but I live and let live.

I cultivate my own garden and turn off shows and spectacles I do not like. I used to love to go to the movies but now have almost completely fallen out of the habit. For one thing, they don’t make movies for mature adults it seems. For another, if they make a film that might prove to be entertaining (TOP GUN MAVERICK) I can watch it on pay per view for a few dollars.. I recently saw DEVOTION (it was ok I would say 2 1/2 stars). It was pro-Navy and patriotic BUT completely banal and predictable including racists Southerners bullying and taunting black man character. They called him aJackie Robinson. Most films do not do a good job at handling racism. DEVOTION went out of its way to show SOME SOUTHERNERS and MOST AMERICANS were friendly even warm to African American characters. But all the interactions with neighbors and police were negative. The film did a reasonable job showing the camaraderie and purpose of the US military. The main character (rather unbelievably) spoke fluent French. I enjoyed DEVOTION but would not recommend it to anyone really and would never watch this film again. I primarily paid for it because I wanted to support a film that was (I was told )pro-American and patriotic.) But I am trying to be completely truthful about the film. DEVOTION was harmless and of minor interest to people interested in military history.


I don’t like LAX airport or JFK so I don’t ever go there.. There are cities and states that scunner me so if I can I avoid them completely. I buy books from authors I like and yes, still buy music from my favorite musicians and yes, still subscribe to a few periodicals and a daily newspaper WSJ in part because I want to support artists and authors I like. I read a lot of book reviews and at my age decide if it is worth my time and money to buy a book I might not even finish. Most ephemeral books I read via e-books now. I no longer buy paperbacks and have given most of my paperbacks away because the print is too small to read. If a book has lasting appeal, I will buy a hardback or even a deluxe leather-bound edition. But all my books are meant to be read. I hope most are passed on and cherished. I have books that date back to the 19th century and early 20th century and many from circa 1933-1980. From 1942-1948 there is a big gap due to military services. I have quite a number of books from 1940.

Reverence for Life in a hard-hearted World

By Richard K. Munro

It’s a brave new world where children can access abortion pills (abortifacients) without a doctor’s prescription and without parental notification or consent. It seems reasonable to me that at the very least parents should be notified if their child has a major medical treatment or is prescribed powerful drugs. It seems to me drugs like this should not be administered without a doctor.

An abortifacient is defined as “an agent (such as a drug) that induces abortion.” However, manufacturers often market these drugs as “contraception” so as to obfuscate what these drugs actually do. Many Americans use abortion and abortion pills as a preferred form of birth control.

65 % of American women use or have used artificial birth control.  

91 percent of Americans believe birth control should be made free and widely available if abortion is restricted or banned. Among those who are anti-abortion rights, 61 percent agree.  There is no question the majority of Americans want access to artificial birth control. There is little argument there. The argument is over two questions:

  1. is abortion a form of birth control that should be freely available to all without restriction or limits for all ages (including minors without parental consent)? Condoms, IUDs, and the abortifacient morning-after pill are given to students in high schools – including those under age 16 – free of charge and without parents’ knowledge or consent in many places. Is this right? Some do not think so.
  2. Can or should states restrict or limit access to abortions for minors without parental consent or notification? Some think there can be reasonable restrictions on abortion. Abortion is legal most places in the United States during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Most abortions are done during the first trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester refers to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some states allow abortions until the 24th week, which is at the very end of the second trimester. Some people think there is an unlimited right to abortion even in the third trimester. But that is a minority. In the third trimester, just 19 percent of Americans believe most or all abortions should legal. according to a poll. But a recent poll indicates 80% of American believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester.

If a person is considering abortion, there are two ways of ending a pregnancy: in-clinic abortion and medication abortion (also known as the “abortion pill”). The percentage of abortions done with U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved mifepristone pills rose from about 44% in 2019 to 54% in 2020. This number will continue to grow as in clinic abortions become less common. On Jan. 3, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the distribution of abortion pills to retail pharmacies.

Under the new regulation, certified pharmacies can distribute mifepristone — which is used in conjunction with misoprostol, a more easily accessible drug, to end a pregnancy — in person or through the mail to patients who have a prescription from a certified provider. President Biden’s Department of Justice, meanwhile, has assured the US Postal Service (USPS) that it can continue to deliver packages of abortion pills nationwide, even in states that restrict or limit abortion.

In Texas, for example abortion is restricted except for life-threatening medical emergency, and anyone under 18 requires parental permission or a judicial bypass. I have personally met with young people who were pro-life speakers from Texas. In both cases the mother came very close to terminating the pregnancy (in one case the young person showed a Costco card and in another a fake ID). In both cases parents and or uncles and aunts intervened to demonstrated the young women was not of age of consent. They promised to welcome the children into their family. In both cases the young women decided to carry the babies to term. I met these beautiful and strong young people. I was, personally, haunted by the fact that if they had been Californians their lives would have been snuffed out and thus these two citizens would not exist.

Since the Dobbs ruling, pro-choice advocates say there has been a growth in self-managed abortions — via abortion pills that are obtained through avenues that skirt the law — in restrictive states. Once again I think young women should have reasonable access to birth control but young people should also be aware of the risks of some medical treatments. I think it reasonable that some drugs should be available at pharmacies only with a doctor’s prescription.

Incredible as it seems In 1963, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare shared the widely held definition of abortion as “all the measures which impair the viability of the zygote at any time between the instant of fertilization and the completion of labor.” (emphasis mine; a direct quote).

Indeed, until the mid-1960s, most doctors and scientists acknowledged that human life began at the moment of fertilization of the ovum by the sperm somewhere in the Fallopian tube.

How times have changed!

In 1965, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published its first Terminology Bulletin, stating: “Conception is the implantation of a fertilized ovum.” (Emphasis mine). 

This change of medical terminology as far as I can determine was not based on new scientific findings.

The modern definition of conception was a political decision to appease Planned Parenthood and birth control activists.

Reverence for Life affords us a fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm, or to hinder life is evil.  So I would say LIFE is a better choice than DEATH.

I have no opposition to those who want to remain celibate their entire lives. 

I have no opposition to those who want to use birth control to remain childless or limit the children they have. 

If people choose to use abortion or abortifacient drugs for birth control that is their choice. 

Abortion will always exist because it exists in nature and some people want to use it as a form of birth control.   But in the final analysis, LIFE is a better CHOICE than death. 

I would respect Planned Parenthood more if they boasted how many lives they saved and gave up for adoption (they actively discourage giving children up for abortion -they wouldn’t make any money that way).

Abortion should be legal but I think it should also be rare.

Yes, it is a person’s right to choose (within reason) to have a child or children. 

But next year and next century and for 1000 years more it will be a heartbreaking tragedy that so many innocent lives are snuffed out like so many wet matches. Morally to abort without a very strong reason (to save the life of the mother etc.) will always remain an immoral act and a human tragedy.