Why have a Language Mentor?
Establishing a regular relationship with a language mentor is a critical part of your language learning. Terry Marshall (1989) refers to the language mentor/mentee relationship as a “special relationship” that sits at the “core” of your language learning program (54). The mentor is both a role model and a guide, helping the learner to reach his/her language goals.
Start Looking Right Where You Are!
While it may be difficult to find a Sheng speaker who keeps up with the ever-changing language variety here in the US, it is worth a trial. The ideal situation is one in which you are able to meet with your language mentor face-to-face on a regular basis. Meeting in-person makes it easier to work on the various aspects of learning a language: vocabulary, grammar, intonation as well as hand gestures. Look for younger Kenyans (ages 35 and below) in your immediate community. Younger Kenyans tend to be more in touch with developments in Sheng than older ones. Try Kenyan students in your university or other universities that have African Studies programs. The local community too may be a good place—try finding out about the existence of groups such as Kenyans in Madison (KIMA). Try local churches and community organizations within your city. Most (young) Kenyans will be able to speak some degree of Sheng. But if the ones you find are not quite conversant with the language variety, they are likely to be in a good position to connect you with someone else who is.
Can’t Find a Mentor in Your Locality? Test Your Network
If you cannot find a language mentor within the locality, think about who you might be acquainted to that could help you reach a Kenyan. It could be a friend who was once in Kenya or a Facebook contact with any degree of connection to Kenya. Some of your contacts may have direct knowledge of Sheng speakers, or you may need to go through a few steps of contacts…i.e. finding someone who knows someone who knows someone.