A Success Story in any language
Back to Articles

Children respond to 'Colorful Flags' program in a big way

By Pat Karlak
Staff Writer

PASADENA - The sea or faces in the Washington Accelerated Learning Center auditorium resembled a miniature United Nations.
      It was the school's ethnic diversity that drew USC professor Renford Reese there Monday to promote better understanding and trust through a program he has developed and dubbed "Colorful Flags."
      It involves introducing students to simple phrases in different languages.
     And if the raucous response Reese received from the 300 Washington students is any indication, his program was a hit.
     By the end of assembly, students were using pronounced body English and shouting their repetitions to phrases such as "annon et encha?" (what is your name, in Armenian) and dwyeh boo chee (excuse me, in Mandarin Chinese).
The introductory language session was useful for a

'If you walked up to somebody on the street and wanted to be their friend, you could say that in their language.  You could be friends with everybody that way.'

Nora Palmer
9-year-old fourth grader

variety of reasons, according to the students.
     "If you walked up to somebody on the street and wanted to be their friend, you could say that in their language," said 9 year-old Nora Palmer, a fourth-grader. "You could be friends with everybody that way."
     Ninth-grader Desiree Noe said the language skills also could come in handy in a restaurant.
     "If you walk into a restaurant and somebody asks how you are in a different language, you would what it means and make another friend?' the ninth-grader said.
Principal Phyllis Harris said she agreed to have Reese, a professor of public

administration, make his presentation because it's important for students to learn sensitivity and respect for other cultures.
     "It expands their awareness and helps them understand how better to get along with other people and make them feel comfortable with us," Harris said.
     Reese said he started his program two years ago in the Montebello and Los Angeles Unified school districts with a small grant.
      Since then, some 45,000 students in seven districts have been exposed to the rudiments of 22 different languages, he said.
      "Breaking the ice can be the first step toward breaking down cultural stereotypes," Reese said.