"Learn more languages, eat more nan bread"
"孩子，多学语言，多吃囊！" - “My child, learn more languages, eat more Nan bread!"
Many years ago, when I first heard my friend's father say this sentence, I looked back quizzically at him and said, "what has learning languages got to do with Nan bread!?"
Nan bread is a kind of Turkish style flat-bread, and is a staple food eaten across the whole far west region and all around Central Asia.
It is a delicious, usually very hard type of bread. We used to dip it in tea and broth to soften it before eating. During later travels to South Africa, I found they do the same with rusks. (It seems bread-dunking is a commonly loved practice around the world).
And all those years ago, I remember looking puzzled as my friend's father held up a piece of nan bread in front of me.
I asked him again: what did he mean? Languages? Bread?
I remember then, that he laughed at me, and asked: “kizim (daughter), what’s the most important thing in the world?"
Feeling it might be a trick question, I said uncertainly, ‘...family?’
He said, ’no.’
I was confused.
Then he smiled, picked up a piece of nan, and said ’Nan bread is'.
Do you believe him?
At the time I wasn’t sure. But later, and reflecting now, I understand his meaning was much deeper. He is wise.
I know now he was talking about skills and the opportunities and revenue they generate for you. They allow you to buy nan bread, to feed your family.
As he laughed and told me there and then, 'without nan bread, you wouldn't have a family! They'd have starved to death!" We were both laughing by this point, along with the rest of the family who were listening.
I later found that his idea beneath the phrase would always stay with me.
He was right in so many ways.
By learning a new language, or any new skill - you open up doors of opportunity.
These opportunities allow you to ‘eat' more 'nan’. Or rusks. Or roti. Or meshawa.
Skills generate revenue. They even bring you community.
Being capable in useful skills like languages mean that you don’t have to depend on a crutch - like Google translate, or worse still, someone else’s interpretation of what you mean.
And in this new ‘virtual’ world, there is something powerful about being able to communicate instantly what you need, human-to-human, no devices required.
Once you are highly skilled, opportunity practically runs after you. You can almost smell the nan bread everywhere you go.
And in this world where everything is uncertain, a well-developed skill you have can be a revenue generating security net that will allow you to ‘eat more nan bread’.
So, '多学语言，多吃囊’. Learn more languages. Eat more nan bread!'
Are any of your skills bringing you nan bread?