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PUB CHAT: Be kind, it can mean a lot

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I had a professor of Italian at St. John Fisher College who not only was among the best instructors I ever had, but also was among the most memorable.

I didn’t major in Italian or anything like that, so those courses weren’t the most important in my studies, but with a good portion of my family actually living in Italy, I knew that I would be traveling there often in my life. I wanted to learn enough of the language to be able to participate in conversations, rather than just sitting at the table twiddling my thumbs and drinking wine.

Enter Dr. Richard Newton.

His classes were lively and fun, but also intense. I imagine that most of my classmates just wanted to learn a few words, but he taught us as if we were taking the first steps toward becoming fluent. He did so, always, with a twinkle in his eye, laughing along with us when we inevitably butchered the language, gently correcting and calling for above all else, repetition … repetition … repetition.

And you know what? It worked.

A few years after I graduated in 1982, I went to Italy with Dr. Newton’s lessons tucked somewhere firmly in my brain, and for the first time I was able to converse with family, friends, even strangers; every so often I even drew compliments on how well I spoke, which floored me. Many assumed I learned the language from my Italian-born father, but I would correct people and say, “I........

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