I am very grateful for the opportunity to study Swahili in DRC thanks to the SLA Grant and the Amani Language Initiative. Engaging with communities in Goma really helped elucidate not only the context and nuance in the language learning process but also provided a glimpse into local worldviews and meanings. I particularly enjoyed getting to know university students and volunteering at ULPGL exchanging ideas in French, English, and Swahili. I feel that I reached some of my language learning goals that I set out before the program in terms of identifying local idioms that are relevant to my research. However, one of the challenges I faced was distinguishing between Congolese Swahili and Kiswahili as well as slang Swahili and formal Swahili. It was especially hard for me as I had to juggle with French as well. I did not anticipate having to focus my attention on learning one language while needing to speak another depending on the setting.
I highly encourage the SLA study abroad experience. To learn a language the best thing one can do is to go to a country that speaks that language and immerse into the culture. I would suggest students to keep a language journal with them at all times. Having a journal where you can quickly jot down a word you don’t recognize or a song lyric that catches your attention could come in handy and expediate the learning process. I would also encourage students to live with people who don’t speak English so you can practice the language daily.
My summer language study abroad experience has been very useful, giving me an insider view into everyday life in Congo. My language learning experience helped facilitate cross-cultural communication and enabled me to build rapport with my interlocutors. The SLA grant and language skills I learned during this summer has built the foundation necessary for me to complete my dissertation research in the Great Lakes region of Africa. I intend to continue advancing my language fluency in Swahili by private lessons and independent study. I also look forward to continue taking classes at the Amani Language Initiative upon my return to Congo. Thanks to the generosity of the SLA grant, I am able to move forward with my doctoral research and career.