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Johnny Stecchino is on TV. For those of you that don’t know, Johnny Stecchino is an Italian movie starring Roberto Benigni, my favorite Italian actor that most would know from another of his movies, La Vita è Bella, or Life Is Beautiful, about the little boy and his father in the concentration camp. He’s famous in Italy and around the world for his wonderful comedies and ridiculous acceptance speeches. Italian teachers love Benigni’s work because it’s incredibly entertaining, and probably also because he’s from Prato, the town neighboring Florence, so his Italian is as close to what is in the Italian lessons (most say Florentine/Tuscan Italian is the closest to “traditional” Italian with less of a dialect).

The first time I watched his movies was probably in high school, if I remember correctly, then again in college. I’d study the subtitles blinking at the bottom of the projector screen in the auditorium, trying to line up the audio, figure out what words went with what, catching one or two that I’d know every so often, wishing one day I’d be able to turn them off.

A few years ago Johnny Stecchino came on the television here in Florence, and after a few minutes, I realized that there weren’t any subtitles, but it was like listening to my neighbor. I understood it all.

Tonight I watch it and can laugh at the jokes and catch the ridiculous stuttering speech without a problem and it’s really crazy how a brain can learn like that. I can think right back to when the voices were just sound without meaning, and now it’s all making sense. The other day, the internet told me that a Chinese proverb says, “To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world.” I’ve got another window open, and guys, it’s really cool.

 

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