Department of Spanish and Portuguese

College of Letters & Science


Major(s) and Certificate(s): 

History, African Languages & Literature

Graduation Year: 
What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?: 

I currently work for a non-profit organization in Brooklyn, NY that produces an African Music radio show.

Language(s) : 
What motivated you to study this/these languages?: 

I started studying Spanish in 7th grade and continued it through my first semester of college. Language study in high school helped cultivate my interest in learning languages and also helped me begin to develop my global conscience. I continued to take Spanish in college because I wanted to continue to build on the skills I had gained in middle and high school, and to see what Spanish was like at the college level.
I started Swahili when I decided to study African history. When I found out that the UW-Madison offers an amazingly high number of African languages to study, I knew I had to take advantage of such an opportunity. I chose Swahili because of its widespread use, and because it’s a Bantu language, so its grammatical structure is similar to several hundred other languages in Central and Southern Africa.
After my first year of Swahili, I began concurrently studying French because of its similar widespread use in Africa. My first year of French developed in me a stronger interest in Europe and prompted me to continue studying it.

How have these languages enriched your life?: 

Studying languages has impacted my life greatly. Beyond simply strengthening my interest in international affairs, French and Swahili have greatly increased my chances to get accepted into a graduate program for African studies, or to get a job working in or with African countries. Having both languages makes me able to travel abroad and work with people from East Africa and francophone Africa.
In addition, studying languages has made me a more understanding and communicative individual. In the case of Swahili, we spent the majority of time third year discussing political and societal issues in East Africa. By forcing myself to think critically and express myself using a completely different grammatical system and vocabulary, I broadened my capacity to understand another culture. Learning languages has made me much more able to understand someone else's perspective and behavior.
I have also sharpened my communication skills. Studying languages forces one be self-critical about what one is saying, which improves the ability to clearly convey a message. With every language I've studied, I've had to reinvent and strengthen the way that I communicate, and remove myself from my current cultural attachments to be able to fully understand others.

What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?: 

My UW-Madison language classes were fun! I especially enjoyed my first year language classes because of the creativity and humor that talking with limited grammar and vocabulary creates. Language classes also harbored strong classroom community because of the way that learning a language forces you connect and learn about your classmates.
I was the type of language student who was always in my TAs' offices speaking in French or Swahili or Spanish as much as possible. I found all my TAs to be very open to practicing the language with me. For Swahili, we also had a discussion table once a week where we could relax and talk about whatever we wanted to in Swahili.

How valuable were your out-of-classroom experiences?: 

I participated in a summer program in Tanzania before my 3rd year of Swahili. Having studied Swahili for 2 years without having been to East Africa before, it was wonderful to finally experience the area and the culture I had so extensively studied. I was so thankful that I could converse readily in Swahili, and the Tanzanians I met reacted so positively and interacted with me very differently than with the tourists traveling there who knew nothing about the local cultures or languages. It’s amazing how someone from another country will open up to you if you speak to them in their own language, on their terms.

What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?: 
chapa kazi ("to work really hard" in Swahili)