It’s the final week of the autumn semester. I’ve had loads of little things I’ve been wanting to post about so, instead of writing about the riveting fall of Liu Shao-qi in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I’m going to do this. Blog writing is way more exciting than my degree anyway… kidding!
I feel like I am immediately the worst kind of student. But, that can be a topic for another day…
I need to give you a bit of background about this… My course-mate, who’s Mexican, has studied at the Malaysia Nottingham University Campus for a year, he has now come to the UK for this semester and is heading to Ningbo in China for the next one before returning to Malaysia. He can speak Japanese pretty well, a bit of arabic and a few words in other random languages. I’m sharing this with you because he made me feel really happy the other day and I want to share why..
E(him): You know, I realised that the other day when we were sat talking about languages, and your japanese friend came, that that was the happiest day of my time here so far.
Me: oh?! Why?
E: Because it was the first time I had used the other languages again. I spoke some Japanese with him, then I went to this volunteer thing in the city. It was to help refugees learn English. There were about 150 of them, and about 70 volunteers.
Me: So what did you teach them?
E: Well, it was quite difficult for them [the refugees] to speak English. They were trying to grasp the meaning of ‘first, second, third’ etc and it was quite confusing. So after I while I decided to write it in arabic for them. And even though their mother tongue was not arabic (but another language like Syrian or Iranian), they understood. And you could see how happy it made them to have that clarification rather than struggling for longer.
This very short story made me so happy because ‘E’ felt that he had made a change. He had been able to help these people and given them hope. And I LOVE that. I find it so inspiring that just these three words changes the attitudes of people, the exchange in language has double the impact than just using one. It can happen anywhere with anyone, even between people with the same native language, but having to use two different languages feels like you’ve struck gold. The hope and happiness captured in their facial expressions cannot be repeated or acted out in a play with the same meaning compared to when it actually happens. I had my own similar experience recently at work. A Chinese girl came in and was having trouble with her bank card and paying for her Sports Membership Online. We gave it a try with the card machine but it still didn’t work. The moment I decided to just brave it and speak in (rather basic) Chinese to give advice and explain what she could do next, it was as if a wave of relief swept over her. The scale of the problem was halved.
I just grinned like a fool for a good hour afterwards. It has been quite a rewarding time for languages and inspires me to just want to help people across the world. To give them the hope and ability to speak to us, but also show English speakers the joy we get in return when we do the same.
I feel like I’m getting preachy again so I’ll move on. I just wanted to share my excitement with you all. 🙂
For now, I bid you adieu, the essays won’t write themselves!
Hope you’ve all had a fantastic start to December and are feeling Christmassssyyyy! I am trying to find the time to make mince pies ❤
Anyway, Lots of love everyone.