“Not belittling a question and keeping an open mind for everything – that is one of the key things SPEAK has taught me.”  

Sara has always been a language sharer. Whilst she has lived in Portugal for her whole life, her linguistic journey relates more to her upbringing and surroundings than her own personal path with language learning.

Buddy Sara from SPEAK Porto
Sara, a buddy at SPEAK Porto

Experiencing language struggles from the outside

By being a native speaker, she has not faced the same challenges that some do when getting to grips with not only a new language but also a whole new set of customs and social norms. However, as a second-generation immigrant, she witnessed firsthand the everyday struggles of her parents and friends. 

“Going to the doctors, having meetings with my teachers from kindergarten all the way to high school, reading the water bill or the letters sent by the bank, I felt all of their hardships.” 

The proximity of her family and friends fighting to get by in Portuguese made the language struggles personal to her. She truly understood and lived the experience of being surrounded by a foreign language despite being fluent herself.

Helping others from a young age

Living in a country in which you do not know the language, and have little knowledge of the culture is a mentally taxing experience. Add the pressures of feeling belittled by those who already speak the language and the frustration of being unable to express yourself naturally, especially when you misunderstand a word, the experience can quickly become a tireless, overwhelming chore. This inability to express oneself fluidly and naturally adds a whole new level of fear to seemingly simple activities. On top of the everyday stresses of life, this is not easy to overcome alone.

The power of patience 

Growing up in this linguistic environment and sharing her family’s and closest friend’s pain, Sara quickly came to understand the challenges that immigrants can face when establishing themselves in a new country and the subsequent importance of being kind and patient. 
The empathy and patience that she has demonstrated from a young age, have translated into Sara being a buddy with SPEAK, something which has not only allowed her to share her language and enrich the lives of those who want to learn Portuguese but has also provided the opportunity to enhance her social leadership skills. “Not only could I fulfil my goal of helping others who struggle and want to feel more comfortable with the language, but I could also meet and connect with new people from other countries.”  

Being a buddy 

Currently, a student living in Porto, her journey with SPEAK began with a partnership with the organisation U.DREAM, with the aim of working on her social leadership skills. With her background and experience helping her family and friends get to grips with the Portuguese language, being a buddy seemed like a logical step. The proof is in the success of her Portuguese Basic II group in Casa da Horta. 

Sara and her language group during her SPEAK Journey
Sara and her language group at Casa da Horta

“I can’t even put into words the pride and joy I feel every time they express themselves in Portuguese or whenever they understand and learn a new word or expression.” Her sessions are fun, creative, and always full of laughs, with many twists and turns along the way, but always eventually landing in Portuguese language and culture exchange. “If I had to describe the sessions, I would say they are a rollercoaster ride.”

Making someone comfortable enough to be able to express themself naturally is a skill that is hard to perfect, but one that Sara has mastered in her SPEAK journey. Her creative and fun-filled sessions are obviously a key part of her success, but her empathetic nature and tireless patience have also been imperative in her SPEAK journey. 

She encapsulates everything that a buddy needs to be: open-minded, kind and understanding of the difficulties of learning a new language and culture. Sara’s social leadership skills have blossomed further and will continue to grow from strength to strength. Her testimonial puts the work of SPEAK into perspective and allows us to see just how important buddies are in a modern multicultural society.

Start your SPEAK journey today!

Just like Sara, you can also share your language and culture with SPEAK, either in your local city or online. Think you’ve got what it takes? Share your world today with SPEAK and join as a buddy

If you want to read more about the impact that buddies are making around the world, read Andrea’s story, on how she is connecting with the community at SPEAK Fundão.

Author: Mya

Mya is currently living in Porto, and recently joined SPEAK as a Community Marketing Intern. Her passion for languages has led to an increased understanding of the challenges faced by migrant communities in new spaces, and she hopes to eventually work in human rights and migration law. Alongside her interest in languages, she also likes to focus on sustainability and inclusive education, and loves finding creative ways to express these ideas.

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