“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela
I love languages.
I love the sounds of language.
I love hearing people speak in different languages.
I love to learn, but I have started and stopped numerous language courses.
It’s time for me to concentrate on just one. Just one other language. To learn and to speak.
As we prepare for our travels we are learning the basics, my husband and I.
To at least greet and ask a simple question.
It’s strange how we sound.
We must learn just a few phrases in the host country’s language.
Oi, tudo bem, bem obrigada, bom dia, boa noite, por favor, muito prazer …
When in a room full of speakers of a different language, it can seem chaotic at first.
My husband is from the language of Gujarati. I remember as a newly married young girl, being at a family gathering. One of the first times wearing a sari, rather awkwardly then, by no means as elegantly as those lovely women who surrounded me. And I had a pounding head.
I’d just spent my first couple of hours surrounded non stop by Gujarati flying from mouths, lips, into my ears. Into my brain. Bashing against my head as the sounds seared into each other. Into my brain. Sounding like …
Noise. Noise. Noise.
That’s all it was.
I had such a headache. But I continued to smile and nod.
As if I knew.
Very patient was my sister-in-law
She sat side by side with me
Explaining who said what, to whom
I would acknowledge
Then off they would go back into the world of Gujarati.
I knew I knew and she didn’t realise I knew …
The day she asked me a question in Gujarati
And I answered
Wow, I thought. I understood her, my kind sister-in-law
I started to pay more attention when people were speaking.
I started hearing words.
I started responding to conversations. Responding in my spoken tongue.
I started greeting in the Gujarati spoken tongue
Uttering a word here and there
There was no way I was going to be left out
I began to understand. But not speak.
Unfortunately, because Ma is no longer with us, Gujarati is not spoken often at our family gatherings. I think I hear less. But I still understand the gist. Certainly not each word.
I didn’t take lessons. More’s the pity for me. I was surrounded by the language. What better way to learn.
That has been my undoing.
I have started many a language. But have mastered none.
Then my Brazilian friend would say a word here and there.
I would repeat. I would ask what it meant.
I would ask him to say words, phrases, sentences in his Brazilian Portuguese.
My brain started to hear the words. The phrases.
I encouraged him.
I love the romantic language.
I was attuned.
I wanted to learn more.
I started to learn Portuguese when I was posted as an expatriate tô Moçambique.
Unfortunately, my posting was the shortest on record.
A few weeks after I arrived we were unceremoniously herded out of the country at gunpoint.
My Portuguese came to an end.
In between I started Spanish.
But now, my Brazilian Portuguese friend got me thinking about learning.
Brazilian Português seems a bit easier than the European Portuguese we know.
We are suddenly on a journey to Brazil.
What better impetus than to learn a language if visiting a country.
The speech microphone has never been so busy as I ask and he responds.
As a teacher, he has the patience and the style to prounce the words several times. Leaving me a recording so that I practice at my leisure.
Só, I started to look at other learning options. Wow. There are many about.
I like Duolingo … words and phrases grouped in topics.
Repitition. Competition. Repetition.
I like Street Smart Brazil. Including the culture and very important explanations about pronunciation “d” pronounced “j” as in “jeans”.
I like …
I’ve started a phrase book of my own.
My challenge is to get smart with at least one language before my days are up. Brazilian Portuguese, wonder if its you!
Thank you my friends! I have a few words and phrases in my arsenal as we prepare to step into your sunny world.
I shall make sure I hear and it is not just noise, when I am in the company of your fellow family Brazilians, also my work colleagues, clients and, latterly, recruits to our clients.
Looking forward to the journey!
Travelling to places near or far. This blog will trace our journeys, or travels. Will report the good and the not so good. Sharing photos and experiences that may be useful to you at some time in the future. Just saying … the posts may be written after the event!
Written by Cecily Lalloo 17th March 2017