STARTALK Reflection - Belinda Mlingo

DSCN6431At my home in Washington DC, as I enrolled for the Startalk Swahili program, I really had no clue

or expectations of a revolution! My search was for teaching resources and some training to make me a better teacher. But today, upon completion of the program…. I believe I am a Star facilitator for Swahili learning and culture.



The online teaching course that we were required to undertake before the onsite training, did somehow shed some light to the standards of instruction we would receive even though relevance of topics like “The U.S. Educational System for Language Instructors” did not quite make an impression on me at first. Until later, when we had the volunteer learners…the wisdom of having familiarized myself with this system made sense to the whole communicative approach and backward design curriculum.



The first day I saw the program instructors and my fellow trainees for this program... my curiosity was piqued further... thinking to myself... what could I possibly learn or offer these professionals - mostly because upon introductions I learned that they were from a totally different teaching setting - all were from the universities/colleges. Whereas my setting is professional government employees - mainly U.S. military and foreign service officials. I was very apprehensive to say the least and I was not so sure that my “special” needs would be met.


Goodness, the program began and I felt more like a lost sailor in foreign waters. The ‘Revolution’ came with Mama (Professor) Antonia Schleicher… and she had me talking in Yoruba in 3 minutes flat!!!- expressing myself in Yoruba… telling everyone how I was doing and about my family…!


The proverbial light bulb went on! literally... all possibilities of achievement were laid out in front of me. all applications for the “mystic/abstract theories” became coherent and viable systems… easily understood and applicable to any learning setting including my very special category of learners.


The sweet and polite Mama (Professor) Alwiya Omar... nurtured and gave us better understanding of Swahili standards and the application of proficiency guidelines in our facilitation of the Swahili language learning skill-sets I am personally required to master in lieu of my teaching settings.


Precision and focus were instilled to me by the “Judge” (Professor) John Kiarie. His knowledge of the Swahili language is awe-inspiring. Judge Kiarie’s instructions/guidance enabled us to translate and apply the abstract second language theories into classroom settings. We are now, I believe, wizards in developing commutative-oriented syllabi, lesson plans, assessments and tests.


Like the star I have become, I will definitely shine in the Swahili pedagogy…. asante sana.