Troy E. Spier is an alumnus of the 2017 CLS Swahili program in Arusha, Tanzania. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in linguistics at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Troy is also an Adjunct Instructor of English/ESL at Delgado Community College. His research focuses on language documentation and description within African contexts. After completing his dissertation, Troy will pursue a full-time, tenure-track teaching position.
My research focuses on language documentation and description within African contexts. I decided to apply for CLS because I wanted to seize the opportunity for personal and professional growth and to study Swahili in an immersive environment. Moreover, one of my dear friends is from Kenya, and she had suggested for years that I learn Swahili, but told me that I had to learn it from the Tanzanians who speak Kiswahili sanifu (“correct” Swahili).
Bonding with My Host Family
I had many great moments on the CLS Program. I had forgotten how to open the door one night, and my host mother caught me climbing over the fence. She told me that I would make a really good mwizi (thief), as she did not hear a sound. I came home another night and was completely exhausted, and I ended up telling my host family that my brain had passed away. They thought it was hilarious and kept introducing me to people as the Mtanzania feki (Fake Tanzanian), because apparently I could speak euphemistically pretty well in Swahili. I also really enjoyed having breakfast with my host father nearly every morning, when we would speak about life for about ten or fifteen minutes. My final favorite moment was at our final “good-bye” ceremony. During the ceremony, I explained to everyone that I was thankful to my host family for teaching me all the bad words in Swahili. Everyone laughed and talked about it for days.
Taking in the Local Customs
I would certainly recommend that others apply for the CLS Program. The experience allowed me to learn so much more about a vastly different part of the world. My favorite word in Swahili has to be Pole. This word simply means “sorry.” I like it because it seems that speakers of Swahili have an unwritten rule that they must compete to see who can be more polite. It took me a few weeks to figure out why my host family kept apologizing for my journey, for my classes, for my research, etc. It was only later while speaking with my language partner that she said, “Yeah? If you think Tanzanians are polite, wait until you meet more Ugandans! We even kneel down on the floor to greet you!”
Using CLS Skills in the Professional World
I was a recipient of the CLS Alumni Development Fund, and used the money to launching a journal: the Arusha Working Papers in African Linguistics. This journal provides a venue for graduate students and junior scholars from Africa to submit their research on or about African languages and literature. We are one of the few journals exclusively created for the dissemination of research by Africans, and our official policy is that manuscripts can be submitted in English, Swahili, or another widely spoken African language as long as we have a reviewer. Accordingly, I have been communicating with authors since our launch in English and Swahili.