Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Theo was upset today at breakfast. He didn’t want to tell us what was wrong. He agreed to tell Uncle Matt, so they went into the living room to talk. They came back 3 minutes later, Theo looked happier, and Uncle Matt announced that today he would look after all of us, all morning. We were going out, but we’d be back by lunch time.
It turns out that Theo really wanted to buy Mum a present, but he knew the shops were shut. Uncle Matt had convinced him that the local supermarket had amazing present potential, and that’s where we all went. I bought Mum a face mask and some hand cream. Jack got her some chocolates, and Theo bought her some comfy cosy slippers. (We chose them, but Uncle Matt paid!)
When we were coming out of the shop, we met Khaled and his family. I stopped to chat to Khaled, and then he introduced me to his parents. They don’t speak any English. That’s when Uncle Matt did something magic. He asked Khaled not to translate for them, and he spoke slowly, introduced himself. They said hello and told us their names. Khaled’s Mum said something to Khaled, and he started to translate, but Uncle Matt stopped him again. He looked at Khaled’s Mum and said ‘English?’ I felt really embarrassed and wanted him to stop. It looked like he was bullying her, but she mimed mixing something in a bowl.
‘The cake,’ I said. ‘I gave them a recipe for Yule Log.’
‘Cake,’ repeated Khaled’s Mum. They all got me to repeat ‘Yule Log’ many times. That seemed to be a difficult word for them.
‘Cake Yule log,’ said Khaled’s Mum, and then she mimed eating it and really enjoying it.
‘Delicious,’ joined in Jack. He also pretended to eat something. He was really funny. At first he looked at an imaginary plate, as though it looked awful. Then he poked the imaginary food, with a grimace. Then he tried it, pulling a face, but after a second, he broke into a smile, said ‘Mmmmm’ and pretended to eat more. ‘Delicious!’ He repeated. We all laughed.
‘Cake Yule log, delicious. Shukran,’ Khaled’s Mum smiled at me.
‘Shukran is thank you,’ explained Khaled. Again, Uncle Matt looked at Khaled’s Mum, ‘Shukran?’ he asked. ‘Zzank you,’ said Khaled’s father, happy to join in the conversation.
‘Wow,’ said Khaled. ‘They never speak English before.’ Khaled glanced from Uncle Matt to his parents.
‘Uncle Matt’s ‘n English Teacher,’ announced Theo proudly. Khaled’s parents whispered between themselves, and then Khaled started to translate. Uncle Matt turned to me, ‘Sienna, why not take your friend over there to look at the post box?’ I was a bit confused.
Jack grabbed Khaled’s arm and dragged him away. ‘Uncle Matt doesn’t want you to translate for your parents. He wants them to try themselves.’
After five minutes, Uncle Matt and Khaled’s parents came over, smiling and nodding at each other. We all said goodbye, and they went into the supermarket.
‘What was all that about?’ I asked Uncle Matt.
‘I have two new students,’ explained Uncle Matt. ‘They will start learning English with me, online, on Monday.’
‘How did you agree all of that without Khaled to translate?’
Uncle Matt pulled out a piece of paper with the numbers 0-9 written on, and the days of the week. We all gathered around and looked. ‘I told them the numbers, and they told me their phone number. Then we agreed a day to study, and then a time. Easy!’
‘Wow,’ gasped Jack. ‘That’s some kinda weird magic!’ We all laughed. ‘How can you teach someone English when you don’t speak their language?’
‘Just as you saw,’ explained Uncle Matt. ‘Lots of patience, lots of pictures, lots of trying to speak.’
‘Uncle Matt, I don’t think Khaled’s parents have lots of money for English Classes.’ I was a bit worried for my friend.
‘That’s OK, I’m not going to charge them,’ explained Uncle Matt. ‘Do you remember that Bible verse you guys were talking about when I moved in, something about helping someone who needed it?’
‘I remember,’ said Jack. ‘“Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.”’ Jack is really good at remembering verses.
‘That’s the one,’ smiled Uncle Matt. ‘I thought I’d help them, like you helped me.’
That made me really happy. Imagine, Uncle Matt trying to obey the Bible when he doesn't even believe in God. I am so glad we met Khalid's parents and that Uncle Matt was able to talk to them. I think I want to be an English teacher when I am older!