“There are very few formal, structured opportunities for studying Malagasy in the United States…when I saw that there was an option to study less-commonly taught languages through MULTI, I knew that I wanted to do it.”
Basil Considine is a working professional and graduate student native to Newton, MA and current Minneapolis, MN resident, and a MULTI student studying Malagasy. Basil earned a PhD in music and drama and is also a SASLI alum who studied Hindi with us the summer of 2011.
Beyond the classroom, Basil is all about music and runs an opera company called Really Spicy Opera. He has even composed several musicals and operas! Beyond composing and going to the theatre, Basil also enjoys running, singing, and photography.
Basil says that his favorite cultural aspect of Malagasy and the people of Madagascar is their kindness and generosity, even when they themselves have so little. He also says that one of his favorite words in Malagasy is “Mahafatifaty,” a word that is used to mean cute/adorable (like a pet or a baby). Some of Basil’s Malagasy students use it as a term of endearment for their significant others. Besides being a fun word to say, Basil says, it’s a reminder that beauty standards are not the same all over the world.
Basil is interested in improving his Malagasy language skills for both personal and professional reasons. His opera company was invited to perform in Madagascar and he hopes to use his Malagasy language studies towards being able to give lectures and speak freely on many subjects in Malagasy. In his free time while living in Madagascar, he also volunteers as a medical interpreter and hopes to use his language skills in that field as well.
As a former SASLI student, Basil says he learned language “faster than he ever had before” during the program and was excited by the opportunity to learn a less-commonly taught language with MULTI at the same pace and applying what he learns to his career and life upon returning to Madagascar.
I started learning language independently without any background knowledge of my target language. For me, my mentors have been my most valuable resource. Together we have remote, live sessions where we have topical conversations/role play (at the market, at a restaurant, on the farm, etc.), work on specific parts of language (tenses, etc.), and practice proper pronunciation. When our schedules do not align, we hold more passive conversations via text and voicenotes. At the same time, throughout the week I try to work on written compositions which I record and then send for feedback.
When I am studying on my own, Anki has been the most useful resource for building and reviewing flashcards (words and phrases). It’s a free app similar to Quizlet, but I find it better designed for learning. One feature that is particularly useful is that it allows you to add audio clips. There are also a lot of YouTube videos that have been helpful and, although outdated, some chapters of the Peace Corps manual and FSI manual have helped me grasp certain concepts. The most important thing for me is to keep activities diverse – sometimes I will bring in TV shows, children’s books, social media, cookbooks, etc. that are in my target language to keep things interesting. Aside from diversity, making sure to set aside a little time each day has also been helpful for me for retention.
More Alumni Stories Coming Soon!