This is a true story but pals have told me it is better than most of the ones I make up. Thanks pals.
I was on a busy Number 57 Bus to Kennishead in Glasgow, when I heard a young Glaswegian girl start to give a bit of cheek to the old African lady across from her. The girl was about ten and was showing off to her pal, “Where do you come from? Do you even speak my language?”
The old lady smiled at the girl and said, “Yes I speak your language. I enjoy speaking English. But I love the languages from my home country, Rwanda.” She then started talking to the girl in a language I recognised. The girl said, “What is that? What language is that?”
The old lady smiled and said, “I thought you would know that one. I was speaking in French. I was saying, ‘What a pretty bracelet you are wearing’.” She then spoke in another language, one unknown to me. The girl looked bemused, “That’s not French is it?”
The lady replied, “I was speaking Swahili. A lot of people from my part of the World converse in Swahili as a common language. Do you know any of it?”
The girl answered, “I have never heard of it. How many languages do you speak?”
The old lady answered while slowly counting up on her fingers, “Now let me see. There’s English of course which I am using now. And French and Swahili. And one you have yet to sample. My favourite language, Kinyarwanda So four in all. How many do you speak?”
The girl became embarrassed and said, “Just the one. I didn’t know you… Someone from where you came from could speak so many languages. What is the Kinyarwanda one like?”
The lady spoke in Kinyarwanda with half the Bus listening in. Then added, “Isn’t it lovely. Did you ever hear such a beautiful sing song language?”
The girl said, “It is very nice”
The two of them chatted together to the end of their journey. The girl listening with great concentration to every word the old lady spoke. I think the girl had learned an important lesson in life. And the old lady had taught it in the most clever way possible. It put a smile of my face. And on the faces of half of the Bus. Such a tiny conversation but yet so important. Sometimes the tiny things in life can be as important as the biggest things on the planet.