Language Barrier

My name is Sira and I come from Senegal. I am 17 years old and I have 3 young sisters. Before coming to ALA, I was in secondary high school. I was in the top 5 of my class; that’s why I was advised to apply to ALA. I didn’t get in the first time. After my second application, I got accepted. I was so excited to come to ALA, a new environment, to meet new friends and so on. Senegalese alumni told me that I would have a lot of fun even if the language would be a barrier in the beginning and I did not have to worry about that. The first day at ALA, I realised that I would suffer a lot because I didn’t understand anything that was going on. First of all, I had orientation in the auditorium with Mr Peter. He spoke very fast and I used to ask myself how I will survive in such environment. I couldn’t even interact with my roommate.

Entrepreneurial Leadership class was one of my worst period. I wasn’t able to understand what my teacher said, much less the view of my classmates; that’s why I was so quiet. I was sitting in the middle of nowhere listening to people talking and laughing, and the worst moment was when I laughed with them even though I didn’t understand what was going on. I spent all my time dreaming in class. I didn’t recognize myself. I was a talkative girl who spent all her time teasing people. A person who couldn’t stay for three minutes without talking. This was soon to become insupportable. I had already spent two months at ALA, and it was enough for me. I was tired of saying ” Hello ” to someone and just after leak , because I knew I was going to start a conversation in which I would answer “yes” or “no” until this person guesses that I didn’t get anything . I’m not dumb, or deaf; and that is wonderful. I won’t forget to pray for those who can’t understand, or who can’t share their ideas. So going home was the best solution I had in mind. But after talking to my EL teacher, I was wondering what would happen when I would be in front of my family and friends? I spent this stage with two of my classmates who haven’t been selected. And I knew that so many young people wanted to be in my situation. Furthermore, my father invested a lot for me and I just couldn’t give up like that. Finally, it’s not every day I will see people from 43 different African countries. And if I decide to leave, these people who care about me will be so disappointed and I’ll never be able to stay in front of them. If philosophers say that “Every problem has a solution”, so mine can be solved. If I gave up now, I won’t make anything more challenging than ALA. And this isn’t giving up so easily that I will develop Africa and I will become a leader. Be patient and be less harsh with me would be my main goals. So I started writing down my speech before giving my contribution in class, for example. I also tried to have lunch with non-francophone people, which was quasi impossible for me, because I only had lunch time to share my day with my peers. Fortunately, I had advisory lunch, house lunch and Peer Councillor lunch that helped me a lot. Once a week, I had a “special francophone meeting” directed by Olivier, in which both First and Second year attended it. There, I could share my highlights of the week, receive advices from them and have fun. Roughly speaking, language is very important in a society. I realised then that I would not understand English in one day and remaining quiet because I am francophone. But I will understand it if I push myself harder. After the first term, I saw my English improved, I was able to interact more with people, particularly my sister Simone and to stop fearing my mistakes when I was talking. I also have a lot of compassion from all the ALA students.

 By Sira Dieye

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