Aneesa Roidad

Credentials: 2022 WISLI Elementary Pashto Student

Language Institute and Level: SASLI / Elementary Pashto

Why did you choose to study a language through WISLI? What attracted you to our program specifically?

I’m studying Pashto and that’s a language spoken in Pakistan Afghanistan mostly. Not very many places offer Pashto and not very many people has heard of it. So WISLI and SASLI particularly was one of the few places in my country that offers Pashto as the language. So it just naturally made sense that I would come here. I think something else that specifically attracted me to WISLI is the fact that there are these language institutes that I thought was pretty unique, it’s not just a bunch of students learning different languages in the same place but there’s more of a togetherness. About the program that has been cool, we had a SASLI all program day and that was very nice to see a community learning languages together. I had never been to Wisconsin or Madison before and it seemed like a very fun and beautiful place.

How has studying a less commonly taught language enriched your life?

The primary reason that I wanted to learn Pashto was for personal reasons. I am Pashtun, my family is from the Northwest of Pakistan and Pashto is the language that most of my family speaks and was the language I spoke growing up but I lost a lot of it when I started going to school. So I think learning Pashto has been something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile and something that I thought would bring me closer to my family and bring me closer to my culture. I guess now that I am in it, it has been more of learning it than applying it to the big goals yet but I think I’ve gotten a chance to speak to my family on the phone a little bit and just learn more things about Afghanistan and Pakistan in class that I hadn’t known before. It felt very natural. That feeling of doing something that you’ve wanted to do for so long and you’re finally doing it. That’s the feeling. It’s so great and very enriching. Also thinking about the war in Afghanistan and the refugee crisis in Afghanistan, I definitely felt that I can be a more engaged citizen and person now that I have this language skill, it can be applied to actually making a difference for people lives in the rest of the world.

What makes studying a language at WISLI/UW-Madison unique to you?

First of all, just the language itself. I think that it’s so amazing that WISLI, specifically SASLI offers so many languages that are not taught in other places. It gives people the opportunity to learn something formally that they otherwise would not have been able to do. That’s just a very wonderful and beautiful thing. I think again the aspect of having a program or support that comes with learning a language, to go beyond what you learn in the classroom and thinking about job and internship opportunities or different cultural events. There was even a workshop about how to maintain your language skills once you leave. I don’t know if other language programs do that but to my knowledge, WISLI is unique about how comprehensive they are.

How do you plan to use the language you’re learning in your personal/professional journey?

From my personal life, I just plan to speak to my family members and when I visit my family in Pakistan, to be able to communicate and connect better with them now that I know Pashto. Professionally, I’m a sophomore in college so I have not yet declared my major but I’m thinking about studying literature and perhaps bringing Pashto literature, poetry into my studies. More broadly professionally, I am very interested in social and educational justice work and seeing myself going into teaching and social work for the government. So I think that knowing another language is good and would be key to interacting with different people in different settings.

What has been the impact of the  WISLI Tuition Scholarship for you?  What would you say to other students who might be interested in applying for the scholarship?

WISLI has  made it possible for me to study Pashto, so I’m extremely grateful to the WISLI scholarship. I think that anyone who is interested in applying for it should just go for it. I think that just writing honestly why I wanted to learn Pashto and what I was looking for was all that I did. So, I am super grateful for this scholarship. Like I mentioned, this is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time but have things have just not worked out on many levels to allow me to do this. I am very glad for the scholarship but very glad for this program as well.

Do you have any advice for students who are studying the same language as you?

Learning a language can be a very hard thing and my professors have said this and I think they are very right. Input and practice are two of the best things that you can do. Immerse yourself into the language as much as you can and try to practice as much as you can. I think that the reading and listening seems pretty doable but to me specifically, speaking is the most anxiety inducing of all the practices. So I think just remembering yes this is an intensive program but give yourself some grace. It’s okay to mess up, we’re here to learn. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone trying to speak and trying to practice your skills, the easier it’ll be come and the better you’ll be. Just having confidence in yourself. Being able to brush it off if something comes up or laugh about it or learn from it, is just a good mindset to bring into learning a language. And for Pashto specifically, I guess just sticking to it. It’s a little bit confusing I think, the order of sentences and the prepositions and what not but giving it some time to set in and definitely the more time that’s gone by in this program and the more I practice, the easier it’s become. So understand wat we’ve learnt and to anticipate things that we’re going to learn, like I know how to future tense works.

What is your favorite word/phrase/proverb in your language?

I have three actually. One that I’ve liked for awhile and one that I’ve just learnt. One of my favorite words is “خپل غوږ نیول” which means holding your ear, and I think that’s just an interesting way to phrase listening into something active. The other one is “د خبرو اترو لپاره” , which means to have a conversation and I think the rhyme in that word, that mirrors what it’s like to converse with someone, its fun. The one that I had just learnt was fireworks, “اور وژنې“, also means fire play, which I taught was fun.