Jan 21, 2011

The Godfather: "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse."

Recently, I watched The Godfather again. When I say again, you have to understand that I've see this movie many, many times, really too many to count. It's a brilliant film, and every time I see it, I find something new. I always love the acting, the script, the photography, and the great soundtrack by Nino Rota. But this time I noticed something else: there are a lot of characters, including Vito Corleone, who are not native speakers of English. This is very authentic and very American. America is fundamentally a country of immigrants. Immigrants from Europe and China were the most numerous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and throughout the 2oth and 21st centuries, people have come from other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Mexico and Latin America. One of the effects of this is that there are a lot of Americans who speak English as a second or third language. When I reflect on this, I remember one of my favorite bosses and people, Ali. He came to the US from Iran in the 1970s and stayed to live, work, marry and have a family. His native language is Farsi and he also speaks Arabic, and English is his third language; it's possible that he also speaks French or German. I don't know how much formal study he has had, but I know that his communication in English is fantastic, filled with his personality, way of thinking, and wonderful sense of humor. Watching The Godfather reminded me of him, and of all the people speaking English in America. If you haven't seen it, or haven't seen it recently, I highly recommend the film. You'll hear a lot of accents and some classic expressions, like "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse."


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