Finding an Amharic Mentor

What defines a mentor? Most individuals would define what a mentor is or the requirements of a mentor in various ways, but regardless of individual variations, there are a few general commonalities. A mentor has enough expertise in a certain field, in this case, a specific language that allows for them to guide a language learner in achieving their language goals. A mentor often carries numerous different roles among learners, but most often learners seek mentors for the purpose of having a support system, a skill assessor, a native speaker of the language they’re studying, or to generally guide the focus of their learning. Depending on the learner and the mentor, a mentor may take a more back seat role, as opposed to determining their mentee’s study plans, or vice versa. Something important to note is that one’s mentor does not always have to be a native speaker of the language, but rather could be quite familiar with the culture & region of the language being learned or could be significantly knowledgeable in how to acquire language.
How to find an Amharic mentor: Utilize the people around you! Ethiopian’s are everywhere, despite not seeming like it.

Get in touch with the African Association of Madison, UW-Madison’s African Student’s Association, or UW-Madison’s Black Student Union

It may be a bit intimidating to get in contact with these organizations as you are making the assumption that they would have Ethiopian members who speak Amharic. Despite the possibility that there might not be an Amharic speaker in these orgs., it’s likely that someone who is apart of these groups will know someone who is Ethiopian. Reach out in a way that expresses why you’re interested in finding a speaker and emphasize what your intentions are. A native speaker may not want to take on the role of becoming your mentor, but regardless they could be a great resource, for example, being an occasional conversation partner.

Find a local Ethiopian/Eritrean Facebook group

If you’re unable to find a speaker through Madison’s African/Black organizations looking for a specific Ethiopian organization through social media resources is a reliable tool. Facebook is likely to your best option as it is global and facilitates group interaction through social media. “Ethiopians/Eritreans in Madison” is an active and local Facebook group that consists of Ethiopians and Eritreans, both born in Africa and America. If you’re looking for a larger community base, you can look for Ethiopian community facebook groups based in Chicago, Seattle, or Washington D.C.. Cities with far larger Ethiopian communities. Because the communication is through social media, your current location is not significant. Getting in contact with whoever runs the group should not be too difficult and you should explain your interest and intent.

Find an Ethiopian Restaurant

To my knowledge, “BURAKA” is Madison’s one only Ethiopian restaurant, but they have both a restaurant and a food cart on UW-Madison’s campus. Finding a mentor through the food of your language’s culture is an almost guaranteed way to find a speaker. I was able to find my conversation partner by asking one of the employee’s in Buraka’s food cart if they speak Amharic.

Contact a professor or someone in UW’s African Studies department that has a specialty in East Africa

Utilizing an academic resource is another great solution. Regardless of if the faculty you speak with doesn’t speak Amharic or know a great deal about Ethiopian culture, it’s likely that they could know someone that does. Although it’s also possible that you could find a mentor who doesn’t speak Amharic, but does know a lot about Ethiopian culture. Use your resources and try to make connections!

Do research on Universities that have explicit Amharic courses-reach out to the professors

This is a great opportunity to find an Amharic speaker (the professor), as well as to be recommended with learning materials/resources. Finding a professor of the less commonly taught language that you’re learning is essentially a gold mine.

Establish some Goals: Sometimes establishing your own personal goals helps narrow down the process of finding and selecting a mentor. If you’re looking for someone who can thoroughly drive your learning process, then you will want to find someone who can commit to this type of guidance. Someone that is already in academics may be best suited to this type of guidance, rather than someone you meet on facebook. If you’re looking for someone to occasionally check in with or to generally assess your skill, utilizing someone or a group you found on the internet could be quite suitable. Albeit, this is only a suggestion and any type/style/access to a mentor is beneficial.
What to do if  you cant find a mentor:  If you’re still struggling to find a mentor, it’s not the end of the world! This just means you have to spend a bit more time doing research, reaching out to community members, and evaluating alternative ways to find an Amharic mentor. Sometimes you can find an Amharic speaker in the most unexpected places, such as, in line at the grocery store or in a hospital. An additional idea for locating a mentor/Amharic speaker would be to look through UW-Madison’s global/event affiliations with Ethiopia. There are a few doctors and researchers within UW-Madison’s medical system that are from Ethiopia and have been recognized for their work in combating health disparities within Ethiopia and East Africa.


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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.