This month the GLN has welcomed a new face to our office, Madhumanti Debnath, our new Program Coordinator. Madhumanti has already been working with her predecessor, Bailey, these past two weeks, and this week will be taking over the role independently as Bailey moves on to new adventures. To celebrate this transition and welcome Madhumanti, I thought it would be appropriate to write a blog post covering our new PC. Thanks for being here Madhumanti, here’s to the growth of GLN with you!
I sit down with Madhumanti in her new office, and immediately feel strange. What do I ask? I don’t want this to feel like I’m interviewing her for a job again, she’s already got it! Alright, first question: “Why the Global Language Network?”
I pause, hating the question as soon as I say it. What happened to this not being an interview?
Madhumanti, I realize quickly, has the coveted ability of “going with the flow”. She laughs quickly and before she can say anything I rephrase my question to ask why she looked for a job in the nonprofit sphere. It’s a tough world, and truthfully not for everyone.
“Nonprofits are close to my heart,” she comments, explaining to me that she knew that she had wanted to work with nonprofits when she was in her Masters program in Germany. Her undergrad career had been in Political Science, and so was her Masters program in India. It was only when she travelled to Germany that she had more opportunities to become involved in nonprofits, particularly ones that focused on asylum seekers and refugees from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. She felt that she excelled in this field of work, and from then on she knew she wanted to work with and for nonprofits professionally. When she was looking for a job in DC, that’s the field of work she was focused on, and it led her to the GLN. To Madhumanti, working for a nonprofit doesn’t feel like work because the work she is doing keeps her interested and involved.
Where won’t you go?
Often in DC you will encounter many a globetrotter, all of whom are quick to share their travels and adventures. Madhumanti mentions that she enjoys travelling very much, so I ask a question that always stumps these world travellers: Where is one place you wouldn’t want to visit? This question is often first met with a confused look, followed by a furrowed brow, and finally the quick answer “Antarctica.” It’s truly a shame because I’m sure there are many wonders to see in Antarctica, despite it’s chilly climate.
Madhumanti is no different at first, she gives me a confused look, the furrowed brow, and then finally she says “No where I think.” Of course I’m skeptical: everyone has somewhere that doesn’t attract their curiosity. For example, Cleveland, Ohio has never caught my fancy. There’s nothing wrong with Cleveland I’m sure, it’s just never been a place of interest for me. I make this known to Madhumanti, who is quick to tell me a story of her trip to Pakistan.
While studying at her university in Germany, she heard about this program which took a group of students from the university to Pakistan to learn about the region, cultures, and social and political climate. She applied, only to be rejected. A week after this rejection, she was called into the office of the program coordinator who explained that the only reason she had been rejected was because of her Indian heritage and passport. If you aren’t familiar with the tension between India and Pakistan here is a link to the New York Times section of India-Pakistan Relations. To get back to the story, Madhumanti was asked if she would truly feel comfortable going to Pakistan, and she was quick to confirm her desire to go, and was off to Pakistan with her group.
Madhumanti told me about some encounters she had that would terrify anyone while in Pakistan. Her school’s transport bus would be stopped for hours, her own Indian passport a point of interest for the Pakistani police. She’d heard stories of people being arrested and held in Pakistan for long periods of time. She knew the risks. However, after explaining all of these worries she had, she assured me that overall she had a wonderful time and learned a lot. I thought long and hard about this after I left her office, and came to the solid conclusion that this woman has a sort of bravery that isn’t easy to come by, and she might not even fully know of it herself. I want to let you know now that the Madhumanti I’ve been interacting with is kind, soft-spoken, and someone who listens. It isn’t the personality of your stereotypical risk-taking world traveller. I think when someone displays such bravery like Madhumanti, it’s all the more special when it’s not something you would expect from them. After she finishes her story, I’m left convinced that there really isn’t anywhere she isn’t willing to go.
Why people should learn a foreign language
I can feel the conversation coming to an end, so I’m quick to ask my last two questions, both of which should be of great interest to anyone currently in the GLN program or anyone who is looking to join. First, why should people learn a language?
“I can’t think of a reason why people shouldn’t learn a language.”
Well put, Madhumanti.
Her response, once elaborated, truly embodies GLN’s commitment and mission statement: “use language as a tool to help fix our world.” Language, is a way to explore, to learn, to connect with so many people in so many places. Just learning one additional language will open up a world of possibilities and new potentials for yourself. There is so much growth that can be achieved by learning a new language. Madhumanti herself sees language and language learning as a path to breaking down barriers, bringing people closer together, making the world more inclusive, and overall an aid to bringing harmony to people. The more you learn about someone else, the more willing you are to truly understand them.
Why GLN is different
As someone who has travelled and taken language classes throughout her life, I was curious to know what Madhumanti truly thought about GLN and it’s method of language learning. She explained that one of the main barriers to language learning is the cost. Often students can’t afford to pay past the first few basic sections, let alone afford to take the tests that would certify one as a fluent speaker. The affordability of GLN is extremely attractive and is a great way to start your own language learning journey while still receiving quality lessons in your chosen language. The primary reason for this affordability is that GLN is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, from its interns to its teachers. She remarks on how she has never seen that before. It’s very special to Madhumanti to see so many teachers who are so willing and open to share their language and culture with students in DC.
The biggest difference she has seen, however, within the GLN compared to other language schools is the spirit behind its purpose and the people who are a part of its network. The GLN is made up of passionate and dedicated volunteers, interns, fellows, teachers, and students who all participate in the unspoken agreement to do their best because this is a mission we all stand for and want to see succeed. Language learning is so much easier when you’re doing it for yourself, not just because of a requirement. The people who come to the GLN are people who want to learn and who make it a priority to learn. It’s truly a unique and special way of being for a language school. She appreciates the sincerity of the people in this program, and their drive to learn.
We are so happy to have Madhumanti to lead us into the Summer semester and beyond as our Program Coordinator. I hope this quick post gave you some insight into the woman behind the emails. Just from our short conversation and seeing the work she has done already, I know that the GLN will only succeed with Madhumanti leading us forward. Here’s to all the best for you, Madhumanti!