She Amplifies the Voice of Others

Meet Aïssa, a multilingual blogger that runs People Racializadas, a multilingual website which amplifies the voices of people of color, giving them an avenue to offer their life perspectives. Read on to find out more about her passion for languages, for making the community visible and how she was able to learn four languages.

BGLL: Thank you so much for agreeing to share your language learning journey. Tell us about yourself and what you do.

Aïssa: My name is Aïssa Sica, I’m 27 years old and I currently live in Berlin. My mom is Guinean (Conakry) and my dad is Senegalese. I studied International Business and Foreign Languages with French, Italian and German and currently struggle to find a job that I am passionate about. But I think I already found my dream job: my blog. 

For the past 2 years, I’ve been running a multilingual website, called People Racializadas, where I interview people of color (I hate this word, haha) around the world and write about different topics related to ethnic minorities (I also hate this word, haha) to bring awareness to different perspectives.

As a creative person, I also have a YouTube channel, Xam by Aïssa Sica, where I talk about personal stories, African history and cultures. I am not so active, but as we are in quarantine, I will be in the following weeks. 

BGLL: What languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

Aïssa: I speak French, English, German and Italian. At home, we mainly spoke French. Sadly, my dad never taught me Wolof because, to him, European languages were more important to learn. Despite insisting so many times to learn the most beautiful language (for me), he only spoke Wolof when he was angry at me. 

Growing up in France, we were taught foreign languages at a young age. In secondary school, I started with English, as it is mandatory. I also lived in Germany as a kid, so it was quite easy for me to learn German in school as well.

I learned Italian in the 3rd year of my bachelor’s program. I had the opportunity to do Erasmus. I was hesitating between the UK, Germany and Italy. I ended up choosing Italy for la dolce vita. It was a very interesting and particular experience, which I share on my blog. I even ended up learning the Neapolitan dialect, as it is very important in Naples daily life.

But why did I choose to learn Italian? I went to a university where I had the choice between Mandarin and Italian and I chose the easiest one. Romance languages very easy to learn when you are a French native speaker. But the most important language to learn to me, to this day, is Wolof.

BGLL: Are you learning any other languages?

Aïssa: I am learning Wolof. I love Senegal and the culture. It has always been important to me to know more about my heritage. I am so happy, because nowadays you have Senegalese TV shows in Wolof language with French subtitles. This helped me to learn and improve my language skills. When I was a teenager, such a thing was not happening. There were no subtitles. What I do find difficult and unfair is, with learning Wolof, you have so few resources in comparison to European languages (Spanish, for example). Nevertheless, I won’t give up, since it is one of my favorite languages—along with Italian. I am also learning Spanish.

BGLL: What do you think is the most difficult thing about language learning?

Aïssa: I think what is in general difficult in languages is to learn the body language, to know what to say and not say, what is appropriate in a language can be not appropriate in another. Also, the lack of motivation is still something I struggle with. As I am quite busy with my blog and YouTube channel, I do not feel motivated enough to study the languages I am currently learning.

BGLL: What are some tips that you think would help others learn another language?

Aïssa: If you would like to learn a language, you need to make time for it and to prioritize, to be consistent. I do not think the longer you study, the better you know. It is all about how you learn and how you are focused when you learn it. If you study a language while being on social media, scrolling at your phone, it’s not going to work.

I would also advise to read or listen to a video every day for 5-10 minutes and learn a few words to extend your vocabulary.

Try to go to the country or countries learn the language every year, to practice your skills. I prefer learning while being in the country, by doing holidays for instance, which I planned for this year but sadly I have to postpone it. But I think the best way to learn a language is to have a partner who is a native speaker, so don’t hesitate to use Bumble or Tinder!

BGLL: How can we keep up with you on social media?

Aïssa: If you want to read in German, French, English and Italian and are interested in the experiences and different perspectives of people of color, you can always visit my website and follow me on Instagram. On YouTube, you can follow me on Xam By Aïssa Sica.

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