Gambian Wolof (EC)
*As mentioned before in this chapter, it is very important to ensure that the Wolof recourses found and used are specifically for Gambian Wolof. These tips highlight finding mentors from The Gambia, but it is also important to know that not all Gambians speak Wolof. Other languages from the country include Mandinka, Pulaar, Soninke, Jola and more.
My most important tip for finding a mentor is to look in your immediate setting, and to work on building a level of confidence that allows you to talk to new people. There were so many instances of meeting people directly or being led to others that could help in this mentorship role that were surprising and sometimes even unintentional. I did not necessarily have to do extensive research and yet found that simply networking and putting my goal of language learning to the forefront of meeting people became fruitful.
- University – The first setting I was able to find connections in was with other students in this very course. This could be seen as very lucky to have multiple people interested in the same language in one class, but it is possible and always a viable resource. Being a part of the University community also naturally connects you to members that are affiliated with language teaching and The Gambia generally.
- Campus Events/Students – The second and third settings were campus events not focused on language at all. Attending a welcome event for the African Cultural Studies introduced me to not only other African/Gambian students but also more spaces where these people would regularly be that I could also become a part of. I attended another event that was about bridging two departments on campus and there found other African students whom in a discussion about how classes are going, shared that they have Gambian friends on campus that may be interested in aiding my Wolof learning journey.
- Madison – My last tip/experience has come from exploring the city, which can seem daunting especially if you feel that your focus or comfort zone is the university campus. In this process of exploring African and Gambian spaces in Madison I have discovered that there are mosques with many Gambians in attendance and even a catering business that specializes in authentic Gambian food made by a Gambian woman. It is important to note that these spaces and people have no affiliation with the university and therefore no obligation to fill any sort of mentorship role. These discoveries can simply serve as a comfort to know you are not alone in your language community.
Outside of my specific experiences there are other tips that I think would be helpful for any learner searching for a mentor.
- Try to find an in person tutor. An in person tutor can write out phrases, draw diagrams, and things of that nature under your observation. An in person tutor can also carefully watch how you are pronouncing words and help with positioning of your mouth. Having an in person tutor also helps eliminate issues of internet connections or clarity.
- Try to find a tutor that is able to continue the mentor process outside of your lessons. This can mean assigning homework, creating assessments and an overall willingness to grade/comment on your progress.
- Alongside this, it will be helpful if your mentor is able to tailor a specific program for you. This will of course need to include your own learning goals. As a team you should be able to plan exactly what is necessary and important for meetings individually and collectively.
- It is important to have a tutor that you have a good connection with. Having a nice tutor is important but there is an extra level on someone that make the sessions enjoyable and not a tedious energy draining task for both parties.
- Lastly, a mentor should be able to give relevant and authentic information to enhance your learning. For example, a tutor being a native speaker will give you addition insights to the country they are coming from.