Have you ever tried to learn another language or learn Portuguese? When I first arrived in Portugal from Syria, I felt like I am among an alien species and since I set foot in Portugal, four years ago, I still learn Portuguese everyday.

When I arrived, I knew not one Portuguese word. I studied a master’s course in Porto and lived in Vila de Conde, a beautiful city in the north of Portugal.

Even though my master’s teachers offered the classes in English, but I rather preferred study in Portuguese. It was my choice and never regret it. The theoretical lectures were a challenge. Since the first semester, I decided to attend all classes. I understood nothing. Nada. I wanted just to get used to the language. I wanted to Learn Portuguese.

Learn Portuguese in Braga
Khuloud & friends

I was the only foreign student in the course. I had difficulty in making friends of course because of the language.

In the beginning, I was having dinner by myself in the canteen. My friend Ligia came and invited me to join the group. The course mates were very friendly and lovely. Since that day I always joined them.

When someone was talking to me in English, I was insisting to switch the conversation into Portuguese. “I want to practice my English”. Someone told me, “I want to learn Portuguese”. I used to respond.

I was curious to know this culture, and the language was the road map of it.

Khuloud sharing the story how she learn Portuguese
Khuloud sharing her story in Portuguese

Gradually I started to gain confidence to speak more Portuguese and make more friends. I was very content when I started to understand all what other person was saying. With learning a new language, I felt I became a new person.

“Learning another language is like becoming another person.”

– Haruki Murakami

I wanted to talk to People in their language; I wanted to talk to their heart.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

– Nelson Mandela

Understanding the conversation was a bit easier. Speaking was the biggest challenge. I was curious to know every word how to pronounce it (check out our blog about 3 apps to improve your language). Sometimes it was funny, sometimes embarrassing. But I knew that if I wanted to learn, I had to make mistakes. So I decided to keep on going and focus on every opportunity to practice:

1. I signed up for a three – month course for beginners.

Then I felt the need to continue studying. I took private classes from a Portuguese girl, based in a place near my residence. I spent a few months taking a weekly class. Besides that, I was reading children stories.

2. I spent the whole day, reading

…. and rereading a small paragraph; asking a friend to read it aloud for me and correct my reading.

3. In the second year, I took a step further

By learning more how to write. I decided to write my master’s thesis in Portuguese. I was writing a few pages and sending to my private teacher and some friends to correct it.

For two years, at the college and the residence, I was surrounded with Portuguese people. Somehow, to learn Portuguese has helped me also to improve my English. Learn Portuguese language has brought me closer to lovely people, and let me know about this beautiful culture.  

When I arrived, I didn’t speak the language.

When I arrived, I knew almost no one.

And now I speak good Portuguese, have so many friends, and feel home.

Khuloud at a SPEAK event
Khuloud at a SPEAK event

Now it’s time to do my part! With SPEAK I want to help locals to learn new languages, and help migrants and refugees to feel home. 

I believe that everyone has the right to feel home in the city where he lives.



Em parceria com o Alto Comissariado das Migrações (ACM), e com financiamento do Fundo para o Asilo, a Migração e a Integração (FAMI), o SPEAK está a apoiar a integração de migrantes e refugiados nos cursos de Português e eventos interculturais. No caso específico dos refugiados acolhidos em Portugal, para além da integração em cursos nas cidades SPEAK, têm sido ainda criados grupos específicos noutras áreas geográficas, com o apoio de voluntários locais capacitados com a metodologia SPEAK.


Author: Khuloud Kalthoum

Khuloud is a a 30-year old social entrepreneur, engineer and TEDx speaker. Syrian currently living in Portugal, where she decided to start SPEAK Braga. Life brought her here & she loves it. She is fluent in Arabic, English and Portuguese.


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