- The first thing you want to do is to find someone who is a native Soussou speaker. Although you might be able to work with a non-native speaker, the advantages and cultural insights that a native speaker will have are going to be far greater than a non-native speaker. Furthermore, it is good practice to support local language experts when learning a language like Soussou.
- Find someone who is invested in your learning. This might be the most important part of this relationship. This type of relationship is somewhere between a friendship and an apprenticeship. Rather than a teaching relationship in strict terms, this should be someone who cares about both the language and wanting to see you succeed. They don’t need to be expert grammarians or linguists, but they should know the language and importantly understand what you expect.
- Set expectations from the beginning. Be clear with your mentor so that they can help guide you along the way. They will also be able to give feedback to you. If they understand what you’re hoping to use the language for, they can be a pillar of support. Try to also communicate to them what your preferred learning style might be so they can better help you.
- Be clear that a language mentor is not the same thing as a language teacher. Although they’re there to help you, you cannot expect them to take on the same role as a formal language teacher. You can’t rely on them in the same way. Also, you cannot expect them to be able to explain to you the intricacies of the language, although they might be well able to do so. Rather, their role is to be there to help you with your language learning journey, not to be a textbook on demand. They likely won’t lesson plan like a regular teacher, so expect to be taking on much of that labor.
- Expect to struggle. Soussou is not an easy language to learn. The pronunciation alone can be quite difficult, especially at the beginning. Struggling, however, is just a part of a longer learning process. Make sure you keep this in mind, as there will be times when the work will be more difficult than other times.
- Remember that your mentor is not going to make you a perfect speaker. This is not necessarily their job. The majority of the work for your language learning will absolutely not fall on your mentor. Rather, the person who must do the heavy lifting in their process is you! This is an important thing to remember, because you will need to practice every day. Your mentor can be a support, but they will not replace your own hard work.
- Don’t forget the broader community. Although your language mentor is there to help you, they’re not the only person. Ask them to help introduce you to other native speakers. Have them help facilitate times when you might learn or speak with them. Have the native speakers and your mentor give you feedback and places to improve. These is a broad community, and you shouldn’t forget about it! This isn’t just a tutorial, but rather a communal process.