To speak. To listen.

“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” – Frank Smith

“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”

Frank Smith

“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.

Stop. Stop.

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.

Then phrases.

Then sentences.

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.

And then.

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

Author: Cecilyswritings

Woman, mum, nana, wife, sister, aunt, friend, mentor, business woman, HR specialist. Love keeping in touch with people around the world using social media - so far and yet so near. Fingers in a few pies and now sharing my words. My Motto: Go for it! Believe you can and you can.

3 thoughts on “To speak. To listen.”

  1. Foi um prazer, cara Cecily! Adorei a sua curiosidade e a sua intensidade e sua vontade de aprender a língua portuguesa falada aqui no Brasil! Ela é diferente do português falado em Portugal e eu pessoalmente gosto muito da musicalidade e sonoridade do português aqui.
    Foi maravilhoso ter vocês aqui conosco e poder dividir um pouco desse país que nos tanto andamos. Tenho certeza que vocês levaram as melhores recordações da sua visita. Vocês deixaram um pedaço de vocês aqui conosco e por isso, somos muito gratos.
    Congrats on your writing Cecily. I really enjoy reading your stories. I’m really proud of what you have achieved! Keep it up, girl!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oi! Todo bem! Querido Eugenio, obrigada por ter tido tempo para ler e por seus adoráveis ​​comentários. Nós apreciamos a nossa viagem ao Brasil e, claro, não teria sido perfeito sem a hospitalidade que você, Ana, Raissa, Samir, Lucca, Fabrice, Melissa e Little Yasmin derramaram sobre nós. Foi adorável também conhecer uma família mais ampla e seus alunos. Nós amamos nosso tempo lá, e eu continuarei escrevendo – mesmo que seja um ano depois! Memorias felizes. Tome cuidado e ame e abraça você e o seu de nós!

      Hello, how are you? Dear Eugenio, thank you for taking the time to read and for your lovely comments. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Brazil and of course it would not have been perfect without the hospitality that you, Ana, Raissa, Samir, Lucca, Fabrice, Melissa and little Yasmin showered on us. It was lovely also to meet with wider family and your students. We loved our time there, and I shall continue to write – even though it is a year later! Happy memories. Take care and love and hugs to you and yours from us!


  2. Cecily, you are inspirational. The setting you described with all your in-laws would have overwhelmed me.
    I very much admire anyone who can speak more than one language. I took Spanish (which everyone always said was the easiest to learn) in college in the 1980s. I was doing well with reading, although understanding the spoken word and speaking was harder. Anyhow, I was making good grades and progress. But when the courses were over, I had no one to speak it with. Everything I learned quickly evaporated. Since then, several times I have bought books, or software, or made other commitments to try and learn again. However, I just don’t get anywhere with it.
    LOL, for now, I only speak two languages — English, and “southern American.” 🙂
    Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

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