Finding a Language Mentor
It is not easy to find a Malagasy language mentor in the United States. This is partly because of how Malagasy-speaking expats and Malagasy-Americans are dispersed across the country, and partly because finding a figure for language instruction in Malagasy mostly works through relational networks and referrals in Madagascar itself. Only a tiny minority of the population has Internet access, and this is mostly filtered through company-subsidized but highly limited Facebook and Facebook Messenger access. A publicly listed email address may be years out of date for an individual, and few teachers (or even schools) have up-to-date websites, or even websites at all. Many institutions have essentially abandoned traditional websites in favor of Facebook pages, which may or may not be checked regularly.
As of June 22, 2022, iTalki does not provide any actual resources for Malagasy study or finding a language mentor or instructor.
The vast majority of teachers in Madagascar (>84% in the public school system) are not formally trained or certified as teachers. As a result, asking through local intermediaries is often unsuccessful for foreign language students in Madagascar: the economic incentives to claim qualifications leads to a lot of aspirational teaching that is neither efficient or effective.
Similarly, while homestay has its own virtues for practicing a language, using this in a priority fashion to obtain language mentorship is not recommended (despite what Marshall, 1984, p. 58 says) because of the perverse economies of operating in the world’s third-poorest country. Very few adults can explain Malagasy grammar – even university graduates in Malagasy Studies.
There are, however, several schools that have Malagasy language instruction programs that cater primarily to foreigners. While online classes are not regular offerings, special arrangements can sometimes be made with instructors and teachers. Here are some samples:
- Antananarivo: Madagascar Professional Training Centre
- This school, located in the Andranomena area, offers Malagasy language courses and 1:1 study as part of a larger family of language instruction. While on-site instruction is preferred and encouraged by the school, they do have the ability to craft a customized study plan that is partly or wholly offered online via Zoom or other software.
- Antsirabe: Lovasoa Cross-Cultural Competence Center (L4C)
- An umbrella organization started and supported by Norwegian missionaries, L4C includes transient and longer-term housing, a music school, and language/business instruction that includes Malagasy courses for foreigners.
Getting the Most Out of Your Language Mentor
Because Malagasy is usually not commonly taught at the adult level (excluding Peace Corps volunteers) in Madagascar, language mentors will be more likely to give you what you want/need if you give specific short-term and long-term instructions, e.g.,
- Please drill me on asking for…
- Ask me to substitute this verb or pronoun…
- I need to learn about…
- Please ask me this way…
Ultimately word-of-mouth among the expat community is generally the best and most recommended way for finding a language mentor, followed by working through a school that already provides Malagasy language teachers.