HOW IDENTITY SHAPES YOUR SUCCESS IN SWAHILI

Mambo vipi and happy Thursday!

Riding a bike, is one of those things that many consider a rite of passage. Well, I missed that memo. Growing up in Kitale, no matter how hard I tried, I just could never learn how to ride a bike. I would enviously watch as my baby sister zoomed by in one of those black mamba bicycles. See image below for reference. They were big, bulky and entirely uncomfortable to ride, but that never seemed to bother anyone else around me.

So here I was, at 24, in the U.S, and I could not ride a bike to save my life. That is until a 12 year old asked me why I did not ride bikes (I was very embarrassed of this fact). This was my smug reply, "I am not a bike rider!" "What do you mean you are not a bike rider, you are just afraid of falling. Besides, you are so tall, all you have to do is put your feet on the ground if you start falling," she retorted. OUCH!!

Honestly, I had never realized that I had given myself the identity of being a non-bike rider to mask my fear of falling. Those black mambas had a reputation of giving people nasty scars, and I was scared. So, to avoid the embarrassment of being the only person in my entire village who could not ride a bike, I just started telling myself, I was just not a bike rider, and that is why I didn't know how to.

After she called me out, wouldn't you know it, two weeks later I was riding a bike!!! I did not magically gain confidence... I simply started to believe that I could be a bike rider. I envisioned riding to a nearby lake (I LOVE LAKES!), which got me fired up to practice daily. I fell a couple of times but I did not quit, because my desire to ride to the lake was strong. Soon I was riding 25 miles a week, making my identity match my reality of being a bike rider. (And no, I no longer ride 25 miles a week).

What does this have to do with your Swahili? Maybe the reason you are struggling with staying the course to fluency, is that you have not yet cultivated that image of you as a Swahili speaker not just a learner and what that would mean for you. Do you imagine yourself confidently chatting with your significant other or in-laws, finally feeling like you connect at a deeper level with them? Do you envision teaching a new skill to a Swahili speaking refugee? Or haggling over the price of a sculpture in an open market in Dar es Salaam? or arguing over the bus fare in a Matatu in Nairobi? Do you truly embrace that future identity as a Swahili speaker? When someone asks you how many languages you speak, do you see Swahili as one of those? If the answer is yes, you are most probably doing well. But if it's not... the unfortunate truth is, you will neither have the discipline nor the motivation to work for something you do not see as a reality.

Now, what can you do TODAY to start changing that...start with how you speak about yourself in relation to Swahili. Stop using self-preserving phrases like...ninajifunza Kiswahili (That is a crutch). Instead, When someone asks you how many languages you speak, proudly declare, "Ninasema Kiswahili." Embrace your self-identity as a Swahili speaker instead of just a learner. Very soon, your vision will match your reality...

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Many of you have often remarked that they would love to have more live support than currently provided at LSN. I have been trying to create an option that would be both practical and affordable. As such I am super excited to introduce ULTRA membership with live weekly support. What does this membership level include?

  • All comprehensive courses currently provided under Gold: Level 1: Master the BasicsLevel 2: Path to FluencyLevel 3: Achieve fluency and High performance 30-day Swahili challenge.
  • The biggest thing is that ULTRA will include live WEEKLY office hours. On Tuesdays 12:15-1:30 PM CST I will be hosting zoom office hour sessions to answer questions, coach/teach and facilitate practice sessions with those present.
  • It's up to you to decide whether you want to attend all sessions or twice or just once a month.
  • Sessions will be recorded if you are unable to attend live.
  • The initial cost of the membership will be $37/ month for a limited time. But if you sign up at this cost, you will be locked in.
  • Current Gold students can choose to upgrade to ULTRA.

2. This month's theme is the noun classes. If you have access to the courses, try learning a few classes. If you do not, but want a quick guide to the noun classes... here's a $9 e-book to check out. We will chat about them at this month's monthly meetup.

If you have any questions or comments, simply respond to this article. I love hearing from you.

I am rooting for you,

Mwalimu Karen

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