Finding a Language Mentor for Lingala

As someone who initially planned to study Lingala in Kinshasa, my first instinct was to look for a native tutor or mentor based in Kinshasa. Here are some useful tips I would like to share about my process of finding a language mentor:

  1. Use your own networks to find potential language mentors. Prior to enrolling in class at UW-Madison, I was looking for a Congolese Lingala tutor with who could teach me Lingala. First, I asked my friends in Kinshasa whether Lingala courses were offered at the University of Kinshasa. I knew once I had one connection to someone who teaches Lingala in Kinshasa it would open a door for me to meet more potential mentors. In my case, going through the university proved to be the most promising avenue because of pre-existing connections at the University of Kinshasa.
  2. Look into language institutes or centers in the country where your target language is spoken. If you are interested in having a mentor from Kinshasa, I would also suggest looking for local language and cultural centers in Kinshasa. One such center is Le Centre de Langue de l’Institut Français-Halle de la Gombe.
  3. Look at embassies in the country where you target language is spoken. More often than not, various embassies require that their own personnel be trained in a local language which includes Lingala. If you can, try and see if you can find out whether they contract language instructors and how you might get in touch with them or even partake in course being offered where you to do in-situ learning in Kinshasa.
  4. Look into language centers and programs in the US. My last suggestions would be to reach out to various language centers in the US where Lingala is taught. Specifically look for and reach out to Lingala instructors at those programs and inquire about the possibility of finding a mentor (either in the US or abroad). While Lingala courses might not be taught at your convenience, some of the best people positioned to help you find the kind of information you might be looking are those who currently teach Lingala in the US. Even if they might not be able to be your mentor, they might be able to direct you to the right person/people. Some of these centers and program include:
    1. The African Studies Center at UNC, Chapel Hill
    2. The Center for African Studies at Howard
    3. The African Language Program at Harvard

While the relationship between a mentee and mentor varies, consistency and clear communication of expectations are two important elements of a good mentoring relationship. It is not unusual for the role of your mentor to change over the course of the mentorship but as long as there is clear communication when it comes to expectations I think there is solid grounds for building a healthy relationship between a mentee and a mentor.


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