Meet my Amharic teacher, Tigist Getachew

Today we are celebrating International Women’s Day. The Spanish language class participated in a campaign to highlight the work of many women scientists. We interviewed doctor Isabel Diaz Carretero, a Spanish Chemistry professor who spent six years in the University of Addis Ababa researching how to eliminate fluoride from water using zeolites.  Now I would like to introduce you to another bright professional woman from Ethiopia, as I did in my blog in previous years, my Amharic teacher and colleague, Tigist Getachew.

Who is Tigist Getachew?

A teacher. A professional one, who enjoys her daily activities: in doing, explaining, teaching, showing… everything about her language, her culture.

My professional life started fourteen years back. Wow! I have professionally grown a lot and got amazing opportunities to learn from students and colleagues.

I am your student and also your colleague in the German School, a language teacher. We have discussed many things about methodology in teaching languages. Can you tell me something about the way you understand teaching Amharic?

Teaching is a profession that requires a skill plus commitment that will be implemented on the subject and students we teach. Teaching Amharic is more than a job for me. I see a way of life that connects me with my students, which will help me know them better.

Do you find any difficulties teaching Amharic in Ethiopia, both to foreigners and to native speakers?

It’s not an easy task because Amharic is a language spoken only in Ethiopia. So, we have difficulties on both sides.

As a mother tongue language, students might be discouraged thinking that they don’t need Amharic in higher education. They only study Amharic in Primary and Secondary schools. They sometimes think they should learn more English to be well prepared for University.

As a second language, at the beginning they might think “this is too difficult”, “I’m not going to use it outside Ethiopia”, “the letters are too many” and things like that.

Well, my job is to convince and to help those people who have such attitudes and trying to help them to see there is a bright side of learning the language and the process of passing through those difficult times.

Sometimes there is a lack of professionalism in our field…

Yes, at the beginning people might think just because Amharic, German or Spanish is my mother tongue, it means that I can teach it. This is the kind of attitude people who never have taught a language might have, but teaching a language needs a skill, a professional way of learning a methodology, how you are going to address to different students. So I think being speakers of a certain language doesn’t make us teachers. It needs dedication, patience, you have to be gifted…

So, which are those skills we should have to teach languages? Those talents or gifts that you mentioned…

First, you have to like what you are doing. You have to enjoy being a teacher, to have a big respect and a great motivation. We have to read, to integrate technology, to be open minded, to receive feedback from peers and learners… We have, let’s say, an intense thing inside us, an eagerness to learn more, to update ourselves and become better teachers, a high feeling of respect for our profession; otherwise, you are just delivering a subject, it will not work…

And as students, what do we need to achieve a foreign language?

The same, you need a motivation, a goal, a plan, to reflect why you are doing it. In the process of doing that, you have to keep a positive attitude to pass the challenges you will face in the learning process.

Many people ask me why I am learning Amharic since it’s something “I don’t need”. What will you tell them?

Because it’s one way of exploring Ethiopian culture, knowing how the people express themselves in the language, another way of having new experiences. If you are living in the country this is how you immerse yourself. Study more about others, so you should do that!

What are the challenges that Amharic as a second language learners usually face?

The first will be pronunciation, there are many sounds that are not present in other languages. It might be for a couple of months, then gets better. Learning verbs takes time to memorize conjugations. According to my students, getting used to the pace of the native speakers outside the classroom, in the “real life”, is the big challenge.

How can the field of language/learning Amharic in Ethiopia improve?

There is a lot of research to do in the field of didactics of Amharic, both as a first or second language and as a foreign language as well.

What do you enjoy the most teaching Amharic?

I enjoy every minute of it. It’s creative. I’m helping a generation of Ethiopians to know about their language and their culture, about who they are and to be proud of it, to show their country values and how they can express better in the language they speak.

With foreigners, I see myself as an ambassador of my culture and my country. I always enjoy meeting students from different places and cultural backgrounds. I enjoy the opportunities of exchanging and learning about others’ values, because for me it’s a two-way process, which you learn while you teach.

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Spanish language resources at UNECA in Ethiopia

This post is dedicated to the Spanish language students at UNECA, I would like to answer some of their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Gracias for your interest in learning Spanish 🙂

Is Spanish the same in Latin America and Spain?

Frequently students ask me about the differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish of Latin America. Of course, there are distinctions between the varieties of Spanish, but we can all understand each other, whether in Valencia, Montevideo or Bogotá. There are also differences between the types of Spanish spoken in different parts of Latin America and in different parts of Spain.

What is the name of the language?

In South America, it is normal to call it castellano (Castilian, after the Castile region in Spain where the language was born) as opposed to español (Spanish). In Central America, it is usually called español. In parts of Spain, where there are other official languages, it is known as castellano, but in others parts of Spain where only Spanish is spoken is commonly called español. So, both terms are correct and you are studing español or castellano.

Why study Spanish?

  • To make new friends at home or abroad (400 million people speak Spanish as a native language, there are an estimated 470 million Spanish speakers with native competence and 560 million Spanish speakers as a first or second language). Imagine how many amigos you can make!
  • To travel more confidently and discover the cultural riches of the Spanish-speaking world. Keep in mind Spanish lives together with other languages and cultures: Catalonian, Basque, Quechua, Aymara, Guaraní, Nahuatl, Portuguese, etc.
  • To expand your business, to get a promotion or to change your career. Spanish is the official language in 21 nation states and one of the six official languages of the United Nations. It is used as an official language by the European Union, the African Union, the Organization of American States, and the Union of South American Nations, among other international organizations.
  • It will help you to learn other Roman languages like Portuguese, French, Italian and many others.

What is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR)?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (abbreviated as CEFR or CEF) is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries. It was put together by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project “Language Learning for European Citizenship” between 1989 and 1996. Its main aim is to provide a method of learning, teaching and assessing all languages in Europe.

What is the Instituto Cervantes?

Instituto Cervantes is a non-profit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. Its mission is to promote the Spanish language and to contribute to the advancement of the cultures of all Spanish speaking countries and communities. Sadly, we don’t have a branch in Ethiopia but there are many centres around the world, the closest in Cairo.

Instituto Cervantes Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InstCervantes

Instituto Cervantes Twitter: https://twitter.com/instcervantes/

What is the DELE?

The DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera), granted by Instituto Cervantes on behalf of the Spanish Ministry of Education, is an official and international acreditation of a person’s degree of proficiency in Spanish. The diplomas can be obtained by sitting an examination that tests the candidates’ ability to read, write, speak and understand Spanish, according to internationally standardized levels of competence established by the Council of Europe in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). There are 8 exams or levels: A1 “Breakthrough” & A1 for students (beginners proficiency), A2 “Waystage” (advanced beginners proficiency), A2/B1 for studentsB1 “Threshold” (intermediate proficiency), B2 “Vantage” (advanced proficiency), C1 “Effective Operational Proficiency” (highly advanced proficiency) and C2 “Mastery” (nearly native proficiency). Here are some samples of DELE exams. For the moment it is not possible to hold DELE exams in Ethiopia. You can check other examination centres in their web. UN LPE is DELE equivalent to B2-C1 (CEFR).

What is the AVE?

The Instituto Cervantes’ AVE (Aula Virtual de Español) is an Internet-based educational infrastructure set up to provide Spanish courses. The AVE materials and courses can be used as supplementary content for your face to face Spanish classes at UNECA. AVE is organized into the same levels as the language courses (Beginner A1, A2; Intermediate B1; Advanced B2 and Proficiency C1). Each course takes approximately 30 hours of work to be completed. You can take a placement test online. Get information about prices and more, here.

What is the ELP?

The European Language Portfolio (ELP) provides information about your language proficiency and intercultural experiences. More info here.

How can I further improve my Spanish at UNECA?

Language learning requires commitment and motivation. The suggested minimum attendance is 75% of the total number of class sessions. If you can’t attend a class due to meetings or field work/missions, inform your teacher and ask your classmates what they were doing in class during your absence. You should log into Edmodo regularly or activate the notifications to check publications. You can write some compositions if you are missing more than a class, for example describing the place where you have been (level 1), describing someone you met (level 1), telling about what you have done (level 1 Adv.) or what you did last week (level 2), etc. (ask your teacher for more ideas).

You can register to our textbook’s Gente publishing house web and get aditional materials for free.

Join our “15 minutes coffee conversation program” to practice with UN colleagues (ask your teacher about it).

There are many social networks to learn/interchange languages and meet people around the world: Lingua.LyMy Language ExchangeItalkiLiveMochaSharedTalkDuolingo, Memrise, Busuu, Babbel, etc.

Why not to read a newspaper or a magazine, listen to a song or radio broadcast, doing some online exercises in the language you are studying? Here you have some useful resources for Spanish students:

Published by UN: PDF

“15 Places to Learn Spanish for Free” and, if your are not tired, “60 (More) Insanely Useful Resources To Get You Learning, Reading, Writing and Speaking Spanish Right Now“.

Newspapers, magazines, art & culture: Agencia Efe, BBC in Spanish, and many newspapers and, television channels and radios categorized by country.

If you are ECA staff, the UNECA library is subscribed to more than 300 reading materials in Spanish. Check them in pressreader.com

Virtual libraries: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, Biblioteca Virtual Universal, Biblioteca Digital Mundial, and many others here and here.

You can download many books or buy them from virtual bookshops.

Some online exercises (vocabulary, songs, grammar, readings, etc.):

UN news in Spanish

Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe: http://www.cepal.org/
Noticias sobre los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio: http://www.un.org/es/millenniumgoals/
Departamento de Información Pública de Naciones Unidas: http://www.un.org/es/hq/dpi/
Multimedia de las Naciones Unidas: http://www.un.org/es/multimedia/ (UN in photos, radio, video, reports)
UNDP TV channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3B5C1AA21C44D045
Radio ONU: http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/spanish/

Online dictionaries

Real Academia Española de la Lengua. It’s the official institution responsible for overseeing the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one other Spanish-speaking countries through the Association of Spanish Language Academies: http://dle.rae.es/

www.wordreference.com. Bilingual (French, English, Portuguese) and synonyms.

Diccionarios de elmundo.es. Spanish Language Dictionary, synonyms-antonyms, biligual (French, English), medical term dictionary. 

http://www.foreignword.com/  (online dictionaries compilation). 

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Africa continental

Spanish is here!

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