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Connect Deeper in a Foreign Language: A Big Lesson from Brunei

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Connect Deeper in a Foreign Language: A Big Lesson from Brunei

Last summer, I was invited to speak at a major conference in the Sultanate of Brunei Darusalam. It was my first time there. Naturally, I was both excited and a little bit nervous.

Prior to the trip, I did some research about the culture, the people, the history and a host of other issues relating to safety.

To top it off, I went to a friend from Brunei who was living in Singapore at the time to get a few basic phrases in the local language. He was very kind. The few hours I spent learning the phrases paid off, very well.


Lesson – Be Sincere

I started by saying “Asalai mai lekum.” To my utmost satisfaction, they replied in unison, “Malaikum ..” It was just awesome and for a bout 2-3 seconds, I was on cloud 9.  I said a few more words and then indicated I will continue in English. As I made the switch over, I saw positive expressions of endorsement on their faces.


The came away very satisfied that they were very receptive of my effort, not withstanding the fact that I probably did not sound anything close to a native speaker.  The icing on the cake is that I earned the accolade of being the second best speaker from the whole conference with over 25 speakers.

That big lesson for me was, a little effort can go a long way. Be sincere!