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Assalom Uzbek classes at IU Bridges Language Program

Assalom Uzbek classes at IU Bridges Language Program

Shahloh Seidmedova

When I started my work as an outreach coordinator for the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center, I was excited about the prospect of  organizing outreach events and presenting video conferences about Inner Asia. Little did I know that each week my partner, Madina Alimova, and I would be preparing Uzbek language lesson plans for elementary school-aged girls. As it turns out, it was not about making children fluent in Uzbek but more about developing their interest in and building a foundation for less commonly taught languages. Plus, Madina, who is a native speaker, was always there to create correct vocabulary for our flashcards.

The more I planned activities, the more I became focused on the cultural aspects of teaching a language. For instance, doing a fashion show or fortune-telling while wearing hats, or telling the children about traditional Uzbek culture, outfits, and marriage rituals served as moments when we could hold their undivided attention. Kids loved trying on the new outfits and new hats. There was also something magical about our fortune-telling game, in which we made use of real bones in order to tell their fortunes. Though of Mongolian origin, this fortune-telling activity is found throughout Central Asia, especially among nomadic communities. It became my go-to lesson because it was extremely popular and it kept the students’ interest. I took advantage of that interest and created a whole lesson plan dedicated to learning animals through fortune-telling because each side of the ankle-bone represents a horse, camel, sheep or goat (ot, tuya, qo’y, echki). 

One of the more challenging aspects was teaching why certain words are the way they are. “Why do you say Xayr for Bye?” was the most popular question, as Xayr reminds them of Hi. Or “How do you say Olivia in Uzbek?” to which we would simply reply “Olivia,” only to see their disappointed faces. As we still have four more lessons to teach this semester, I am not wrapping up my experience as a Bridges volunteer yet, but I can certainly say that we have succeeded, through teaching Uzbek culture and language, in laying a solid foundations upon which these students can improve their language acquisition.