Can you introduce yourself briefly and tell us a little about your background?
I am Aiperi Aitbaeva. I am a Kyrgyz FLTA and teaching American students Kyrgyz at Indiana University. Back in Kyrgyzstan I am an English language instructor and teacher trainer at Lingua Foundation for Innovative Education language school and methodology center. I am originally from Osh, which is in the south of Kyrgyzstan. I have a bachelor’s degree majoring in "Theory and Teaching Methods of Foreign Languages" from Ishenaaly Arabaev Kyrgyz State University. I have a lot of experience in teaching English as a foreign language. I worked for a big number of language programs and reforms aimed to improve the English language education in Kyrgyzstan. I love my job, and the quote “the best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book,” perfectly describes my point in teaching.
How many sections of Kyrgyz language are you teaching and how many students do you have? Why should students learn Kyrgyz?
I am teaching Advanced Kyrgyz, and I have three graduate students. I am glad to know that students know one of the rare languages, Kyrgyz, in the advanced level. It means Kyrgyz language and culture are interesting for students in the United States. A lot of my friends in Kyrgyzstan were surprised when they found out that I am teaching Kyrgyz here.
I think students should learn Kyrgyz because learning language is a way to learn culture and history. Kyrgyzstan is rich in culture, traditions, and values that might be interesting for students. For example, one of my students is doing research about “Urkun” in 1916 and translating an old manuscript. Along with my teaching responsibilities I am working as an Intermediate Kyrgyz textbook developer in the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region. I believe it can help to make the Kyrgyz language more accessible to foreigners.
What classes are you taking here at IU, which one do you like the most, and why? What is different about taking classes in the US?
In fall semester I am taking two courses: Teaching Less Commonly Taught Languages and Introduction to Counselling Psychology. I like the first the most because we discuss different approaches and issues in the methodology of teaching less-commonly taught languages as Kyrgyz, Swahili, or Thai. Each FLTA contributes to the discussion and shares the situation in language education in their countries. It makes the class very diverse and cross-cultural. We learn a lot about and from each other.
Is this your first time visiting the United States? If so, what are your thoughts?
Yes, this is my first time visiting the US and it is awesome!
I would say it is “just like in the movies”. As an undergraduate student, I used to watch a lot of American movies and have seen many of the places and things on the screen and now I am experiencing them in real life.
The other thing I am very impressed is the diversity of the United States where people from different groups and background accept, respect and appreciate what makes them different.
And lastly, I like the culture of being friendly and smiling. In Kyrgyzstan we don’t smile or say “hi” to strangers. I think it is always a good idea to say “hi” or “have a nice one” to another person.
Is there anything you miss from Kyrgyzstan that you have not been able to find here?
I miss my parents, my siblings (brother and sister) and my nephews. I definitely cannot find them here! The other thing I am missing a lot is other Kyrgyz traditional food, especially my mother’s “manty” [dumplings].
What is your favorite thing to do at IU so far (when you're not teaching or taking class)?
IU is a very nice place with a lot of great things I love doing, like meeting with my new friends from all over the world and hanging out on campus. IU’s campus is one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States. I also like going to different events for international students and exploring American Culture: football (not soccer!), basketball, and cultural events like Thanksgiving dinner and a Halloween party our American friends invited us to.
Is there anything you would like our readers to know about Kyrgyzstan?
If you want to experience great hospitality, rich history, culture, traditions and mouthwatering food, welcome to Kyrgyzstan.
Do you think learning the Kyrgyz language is difficult for a native English speaker?
Yes, I think learning Kyrgyz is difficult for a native English speaker. Some reasons might be the Cyrillic script which is different from the one they know. Also, Kyrgyz has specific sounds that students often struggle with, vowel harmony, and of course grammar.
Do you have any advice for learning languages from your own experience?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Focus on communication more. Practice makes perfect.
What is a fun or interesting phrase in Kyrgyz that you want our readers to know?
American students found funny that the Kyrgyz word for a bear is “aiu” and the abbreviation for Indiana University is IU. So, when you say, “I study at IU”, in Kyrgyz it sounds like “I study in the bear.”