Good Morning, GLN students, teachers, volunteers and fans! Today is the first Tuesday of the month and that means an opportunity to meet two GLN stars. We are featuring the mastermind behind our awesome GPS and one of our outstanding teachers. Have fun learning about their passion for language and culture.
Featured Volunteer – Rachael Johnson
My journey to being a GLN student-turned-volunteer started when I was 14 and overheard a Haitian friend speaking French to his sister in Morocco. As a young girl living in the homogenous suburbs of Nashville, the French language, and all the idealistic opportunities it embodied, was the answer to my intangible, insatiable longing for adventure. Two years later, I found myself of a plane to Paris with a girlfriend who’s parents had somehow agreed to let their 16 year old daughter go to a foreign country un-chaperoned… mind you, this was before Taken. The summer following, I did a self-funded summer abroad at a French language school, which put me back about all my babysitting earnings, but put me light-years ahead in terms of crazy stories and experiences compared to all of my friends at home. Staring with pride at the fresh ink of my slowly filling passport was when the travel bug truly bit – and a hunger for different cultures via languages took shape. When I seriously got interested in languages, I had made the crazy decision to complete my undergraduate studies at the American University in Bulgaria. “Why Bulgaria?” (you and everyone else may and have asked). Honestly, it was a process of elimination that boiled down to the American University in Beirut and the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG). Having been a sheltered southern belle all my life, I heard a rumor that AU Beirut had a curfew and a dress code, and thus I promptly booked my flight to Sofia, Bulgaria. To make a long story… even longer, I ended up loving my time in the tiny Bulgarian village of Blagoevgrad. It was at AUBG where I truly learned to be myself and open up to other cultures as well. I found my niche in the Georgian student community and proceeded to spend my brain power studying their complex, beautiful, and somewhat guttural and tongue twisting language and the fascinating culture behind it.
When I graduated from AUBG and returned to the States, I decided that the best place to re-integrate myself into the American culture was by living in one of the most international cities in America– D.C. After about two weeks of not saying “gamarjoba! Rogor xar bicho” (roughly: Hey! How are you, bro), I was on a hunt to find the language that had been such an integral part of the most phenomenal time of my life. A quick Google search later and I was in the GLN database and set for taking classes—Russian in the fall and then Georgian in the spring and summer. When last winter rolled around, I had a lapse in my rigorous work schedule that allowed me to commit a few hours a month to something more recreational and fun. I volunteered with GLN in the communications department taking on their monthly newsletter, the GPS. After revamping the layout and adding a few fun elements, I have found a lot of fulfillment in contributing my unique interest in design and HTML (yes… I’m a geek at heart) with my passion for GLN’s mission.
For others out there who are looking to get plugged in to a D.C. community and nerd out with those who have similar niche obsession with less commonly heard of languages, I really encourage you to take the next step in your involvement – to go beyond the classroom and use your professional or personal skills to contribute to GLN and be an important player in this fun organization! Check out the GLN website to learn more about volunteering and visit an info session to learn how you will fit in the GLN family.
Featured Teacher: Saule Kassengaliyeva
Privet, kak dela? (“Hi, how are you”)My name is Saule Kassengaliyeva. Born and raised in Astana, Kazakhstan, I grew up speaking Kazakh and Russian. When I came to the States in 2005, I realized how little the outside world knew about Central Asia. Many people, even native Russian speakers, were surprised that Russian was my native language.
In 2009, I started to teach Russian at GLN to show that similar to English in the States, Russian is a language of interethnic communication in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Often, I get asked why I decided to teach Russian instead of Kazakh. I think by teaching Russian I can share language and culture of not just one country, but a whole region.
Thanks to amazing Spanish and French teachers at GLN, I was able to get ready for my trips to Colombia and France.
I believe, GLN creates a unique atmosphere where people can exchange cultures, traditions, and knowledge through language. I am thrilled to be a part of this community.