Gambian Wolof (EC)

Language Mentors

 Advice on finding a language mentor.

Having a language mentor is extremely help in the process of learning a new language. Especially in the case of Gambian Wolof, having a mentor has been so crucial in helping me figure out what resources are Gambian. This process has also taught me a lot about cultural, educational, financial, and historical differences that lead to the different capacities’ languages are held in country to country. These insights and more, would not have been as easily discovered without my mentor’s knowledge as a native speaker and Gambian resident.

The Peace Corps book, Volunteer On-Going Language
Learning Manual: Beyond Hello,
has a very useful chapter called Learning with a language helper. This chapter has a list of tips titled “pick a language help who” that includes:

  1. Can explain what to say and how to say it so you minimize your chances of offending and maximize your chances of communicating appropriately
  2. Cares about you and wants to see you succeed
  3. Is someone you like and trust
  4. Preferably speaks some English
  5. Will help you prepare for your learning adventure
  6. Will help you understand what you learned from your 

 These steps ensure that the person in your mentor role is qualified, personable and who also cares about your progress. There are many aspects that also aid in fostering a productive mentor relationship like trust and a general friendly attitude and passion for the language. One aspect that I think has been very helpful for me is a sense of “academic professionality”. Coming into this class I didn’t know what to expect or necessarily how to structure my learning but knowing that I have a mentor that is just as interested in seeing me learn and grow is very appreciated. This combined with the fact that they can keep me on the right track academically, whether it be with correcting my pronunciation, etc., is important.

The website italki gives insight to just how important it is to have a structured plan with a mentor because there are so many ways to learn a language. Italki’s website statement says, “At italki, we offer a variety of experienced and certified English teachers and tutors to help you achieve your language goals. Our online platform allows you to choose from a wide range of English classes, courses, and lessons to suit your learning needs and schedule.” Their page also offers a range of lesson categories like conversation, practice, pronunciation, grammar, spelling, reading, and writing. This shows all the many facets of learning a language. Their website also has categories for Being the different lengths of lesson times, your proximity to your teacher whether you want a professional teacher or a community tutor, as well as group class options. I believe these are all factors that should eventually be considered when finding a language mentor. Of course, not all these things cannot be done all at once from the very beginning but with the right mentor who has the same understanding of your goals, great progress can be made as well as a friendship blossoming from the mentor learner relationship.


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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.