Africa in Our Lives: AliBaba Sanchi

Field of study: English language and Linguistics.

Hometown: Sokoto, Nigeria

What brought you to Madison?

I am here as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant and a Cultural Ambassador to share the language and culture of the Hausa people here at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

What is your favorite activity to do in Madison?

Well, I guess it would have been more fun if I had had students to teach. But all the same I enjoyed the outreach programs I engaged in because it afforded me the opportunity of meeting people/students and talking to them about Hausa language and culture. Each time I gave presentations, I pretended not to understand English so as to teach my audience how to greet and introduce themselves in Hausa and only after they had introduced themselves would I speak English. The expression I got from them each time was just priceless.

International Night at Hamilton Middle School

What inspired you to apply to be a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA)?

There are only few English language teachers in north-west Nigeria, and most of them are not interested in traveling this distance or to another part of the world. In July 2014, a student I taught at the undergraduate level returned to Sokoto after he had completed the Fulbright FLTA program at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. When I met him, he told me about the program and encouraged me to apply, telling me how important it was to tell the world about Hausa language and culture. That meeting prompted my application for the Fulbright FLTA program and I got selected, after a rigorous screening, to participate in the program in the year 2016.

Why do you think students should study Hausa?

Hausa is the third most widely spoken language in Africa, after Arabic and Swahili. This is because the language is spoken in more than 10 countries in Africa with a significant number of speakers in each country. Learning the language is thus gaining access to the culture of the many people who use the language on the continent. Also, our world today is multilingual, multicultural in nature and having the knowledge or speaking more than one or two languages brings opportunities to the present competitive job market.

Furthermore, research over the years has shown that people who speak more languages have more competence in their native languages. This is because, the ability of learning a second language and its cultural values and traditions opens up the mind of the learner to the power of language, enriching and exposing them to various cultural background, traditions, tribes and race found in various regions across the world.

How has speaking multiple languages impacted your life?

Obviously, I would not have had the opportunity of participating in the Fulbright program if all I knew was to speak, write and read only Hausa. Learning the English language has opened to me this great opportunity, I must admit that I have learned a lot from this experience: I have interacted with more than 400 other Fulbrighters from all over the world; I have attended classes with American students and have made some friends that I will always cherish; I have been taught by American professors who are some of the best in their fields. Even more, I have had the opportunity to enhance my use of English, and I am sure my community in Nigeria will be the better for all these I have gained.

AliBaba talking to students on World Thinking Day

What have you learned about yourself or about Nigeria from teaching to an American audience?

For me, I have come to understand my strength and weakness in the teaching profession. In terms of teaching, I have learnt an entirely different approach to language teaching. At first, it was difficult for me because I was taught by a different method, the same method I had been using for the past 13 years. Here, I have learned what I would deem a more effective approach to language teaching.

What would you like to do next year after finishing your Fulbright FLTA?

I plan to continue to search for knowledge. I love building young minds, and that is why I took to teaching immediately after my undergraduate studies, and to continue to fit well in such a career, you need to continuously learn new teaching trends.

What activities, foods, or places would like to experience before the end of the school year?

I have helped myself to some delicious American foods, although they are mostly too sweet. And who would come to the United States and not visit Hollywood, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York? Not me, definitely.