So it has been a little over a month since I first arrived in Mantasoa, Madagascar, so far my experience here in has been nothing but wonderful. I absolutely LOVE my homestay family, they have been very hospitable and kind to me. For the past 4 weeks as a Peace Corps trainee I have received various types of training which include, cultural integration training, health and wellness training, food preparation, TEFL Technical training, safety and security training, and ofcourse Malagasy Language and Cultural training...One of the most important training I am currently receiving at PST (Pre Service Training) is the Malagasy Cultural and Language training. In order for me to be able to connect with my future Malagasy students and community members I MUST be able to speak a descent level of Malagasy. Language is a crucial part of being able to integrate into ANY culture and to be honest although I am bi-lingual learning Malagasy has been a struggle for me. After my first mock language exam with my current teacher Queen Ursula (what I call her), I learned that I really need to take some time after our lessons to be tutored on my Malagasy Language skills. I also learned that I need to spend more time speaking in Malagasy to my host family and peers. Tomorrow, I have the 1st of two language proficiency exams. I must pass both exams in order to be allowed to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. So, today I will be spending the rest of my afternoon practicing my Malagasy and ensuring I meet the language proficiency standard and make all of my teachers proud.
As Peace Corps trainees we are in a fully immersive language program and we receive language instruction for about 3-4 hours per day 5 days a week. The past couple of weeks I have had the privileged of working closely with 3 of the most patient, kind and overall brilliant language teachers. During my first week I had the honor of working with Dr.Sylvano (what I call him) as my language teacher. During my time with with Dr.Sylvano we covered several topics including basic Malagasy phrases, simple biographical introductions and building on Malagasy vocabulary. Dr. Sylvano was a great teacher and he really took the time to understand what kind of learner I was and adapted his lessons to fit my needs and the needs of my two other classmates. He was also super patient with my moments of drifting off into another galaxy and my overall creative scattered thought patterns. I really do appreciate Dr. Sylvano and his efforts in helping me learn to speak Malagasy. The 2nd week I had the opportunity to work with Master Stephano who is a super dynamic and patient teacher. I really enjoyed working with Master Stephano because he was super flexible, intuitive and went with the flow of the class. Stephano is also super passionate about his job and it shows because he is constantly checking in with students and finding ways to continue to be helpful. Finally, during my 3rd week I was assigned my official teacher for the rest of PST and that is none other than the vibrant and beautiful Queen Ursula. With Ursula I have been learning Malagasy sentence structure with more emphasis on conversational Malagasy. Working with Ursula has been challenging because as a teacher she has very high expectations and has pushed me to speak more and more Malagasy. Although my lessons with Queen Ursula are hard I really do appreciate her because she is always honest with me in terms of where I stand with my Malagasy. Queen Ursula has also pushed me to practice more and more Malagasy outside our lessons. Honestly, the language training provided by Peace Corps is some of the best training I have ever received in my life. I am confident that if I put in the effort to really learn Malagasy I will get to a descent level...eventually. ALSO I strongly believe that Peace Corps has done a fabulous job of selecting some of the most qualified, competent and experienced Malagasy country nationals as Language and Cultural facilitators.
Feel free to read their bios and see for yourself...
Malagasy Language Teacher Spotlight
Master Stephano Razafindramanga
Educator, Writer, Spoken Word Artist, and Actor.
Stephano Razafindramanga was born in Tulear and raised in Ejeda, Madagascar. Stephano is the youngest of 4 children and was raised by a single mother. From a very young age Stephano has always found a passion in reading, writing, literature and philosophy. His passion for literature was deepened when he was taught English by a Peace Corps volunteer when he was in High School. While completing his law degree at Ankantso State University in Antananarivo (capital of Madagascar), Stephano started teaching english at local high schools located in both Antananarivo and the Sofia Region which is located north of Madagascar. After 2 years, Stephano found a passion in teaching and decided to pursue education full time as a career. Through education and his many talents Stephano hopes to inspire Malagasy youth to pursue their dreams and reach their ultimate potential.
Favorite Thing About Madagascar:“I am in love with Malagasy culture and working with Peace Corps was the best thing has ever happened to me because I have the opportunity to share my culture with people from the United States”
Experience Being Jennifer’s Teacher:“I love watching Jennifer learn because she is always smiling and she believes in herself. During our lessons Jennifer seems very engaged and interested in Malagasy culture and she has a desire to really learn about our culture”
CLICK HERE to check out some of Stephano's Work.
Dr. Sylvano Jaotombo
B.A. Anglo American Studies, PhD Candidate of Anthropology, and Intellectual.
Sylvano Jaotombo was born and raised in Diego Suarez which is located in the northern tip of Madagascar. Sylvano completed his degree in Anglo American Studies at the University of Diego in 2015. Sylvano is fluent in 4 different languages which include Malagasy, English, French, and Spanish. While completing his Masters degree in Anthropology Sylvano had the opportunity to do research on the various learning styles of foreign languages at Western University located in Ontario, Canada. Sylvano hopes to use his Cultural Anthropology background to someday open up a intercultural museum that showcases the rich diversity within Madagascar. Sylvano got his start with the Peace Corps in 2016 when a Peace Corps volunteer recommended him for the program. Sylvano loves to play sports including basketball, volleyball and rugby, he also loves literature, being outdoors with nature and to have twerking battles with friends (Malagasy style).
Favorite Thing About Madagascar: “I love Malagasy beaches and to stare off into the horizon of Malagasy sunsets”
Experience Being Jennifer’s Teacher:“It is incredibly frustrating when Jennifer blanks off into another universe during my class... BUT I do appreciate her efforts in trying to learn Malagasy”
Queen Ursula Rahasinirina
Language and Cultural Facilitator for Peace Corps Madagascar.
Ursula Rahasinirina was born and raised in Fianarasoa which is a city located center south of Madagascar. Ursula studied law at the University of Fianarasoa which is the oldest institution of higher education in Madagascar. Ursula started working for Peace Corps in 2009 as a Language and Cultural Facilitator (LCF). Ursula speaks 7 different Malagasy dialects and is fluent in French and English as well. Ursula also works for “Yes Tefita” which is an NGO that does towards human empowerment and human rights by teaching people living in rural communities about healthy nutrition and maternity health. In the future Ursula hopes to continue to train both Peace Corps Trainee and staff on the Malagasy Language and culture. During her free time Ursula enjoys to dance music from all over the world and to spend time with her family.
Favorite Thing About Madagascar: “My favorite thing about Madagascar is the food and the spirit of the people in my hometown of Fianarantsoa”
Experience Being Jennifer’s Teacher:“I feel very comfortable being Jennifer’s teacher. It is almost like she is my sister from another mother. I know I can tell Jennifer the truth and she will not get offended”