A family Somali language teacher: Community and teamwork

Learning language and culture as a family
Learning language and culture as a family

I’m ready to hire a Somali teacher now.  I need to find a way to keep me talking and progressing in my language, and I need some help.  Also, as my kids reach middle school, where the language offerings are slim, I want to help them develop their language abilities.  As we live in Minnesota, Somali is one of the most practical languages to learn.  A family Somali teacher will teach my kids foreign-language skills and motivate me in my language-learning.

A connection to the community

I’m looking for someone who can teach my kids a foreign language and connect them to a broader community in our area.  My idea is to find 1-2 teachers in the local Somali community who can come to my house 1-2 times per week to teach language, and who could help get us acquainted with the Somali community here.  I would love to expand these sessions to meeting at the malls and community centers in the city.  These experiences will help broaden the horizons of my children as they learn a language.

So I’m looking for a particular type of language teacher: one who focuses on teaching the basics and getting us out there to talk.  We need engagement above all.  Games, songs, action, and fun need to play an important role.  Field trips need to play a part, too.  (Somali restaurants anyone?)  I don’t think too much grammar will keep my family engaged, although some grammar explanations help crystallize understanding.

In my experience, playing with kids in a foreign language works best.  When the kids were younger, we had a great young Russian woman (Olya) teaching them.  She was in her early 20s, and she liked to play games inside and outside with them.  My kids’ favorite memory of Olya was when her family came to town from Russia, and they got to play with Olya’s younger sister who was about their age and spoke almost no English.

Since my kids go to school with plenty of Somali kids, and the Somali community leads lots of activities in our area, I hope that a sense of play and a love of another community will help motivate my kids’ language-learning.

Motivating myself

These days I’m not progressing in my languages well on my own.  I feel like I should be able to do it on my own, though; I feel like hiring a teacher indicates I’ve given up.  At the same time, I feel like a teacher may breathe new life into my studies.  The funny thing is, I’m so used to being the teacher that needing a teacher is uncomfortable.  I don’t want a teacher to take over my learning for me, but to help motivate me.

Work takes up so much of my energy these days, but it teaches me the importance of a team.  The project I’m working on is intense, but it will move into a less intense phase this coming week. So I will get more energy back.  I’m grateful for this project–so different from anything I’ve done in academia–because it taught me how working in a team motivates me so much more than working entirely on my own.  As a team, we regularly articulate goals, check up on one another’s progress, and encourage one another.  A language teacher will get me working on a team again in my language study to improve how I articulate goals, am accountable to others, and get encouragement.

I see many ways that teamwork helps language study.  The famous Youtube polyglots (eg, Benny Lewis, Moses McCormick, Richard Simcott) create videos, and the responses from their audience help motivate them.  Skype friends help create times when I can speak in my languages.  A friend of mine who’s learning Spanish, conscripted his brother to talk to him twice a week on the phone entirely in Spanish.  No language exists in a vacuum; we need a team.  I’m just looking to adjust my configuration of teammates.

Family tutor: Involving my kids, expanding my team

By bringing in a Somali tutor, I’m expanding my kids’ community and my own language-learning community.  Languages are social, so speaking requires lots of people.  New languages requires new communities, so we’re venturing into new areas of our city and our world.  I hope we make new connections and learn new skills.

Have you ever hired a language teacher for your kids and/or family?  How did you find him or her?  What criteria did you use for selection?  What have you found a language tutor does for you that you can’t do for yourself?

Photo credit: Jim Boud / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

7 thoughts on “A family Somali language teacher: Community and teamwork

  1. Pingback: Why I’m Learning Korean Again | From Korea with Love

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    1. Thanks for asking! Unfortunately, it’s been harder than I thought. One friend thought he could do it, but he ended up with another commitment. Other friends have tried hooking me up with their friends, but it hasn’t worked yet.


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