Sharifullah (Afghanistan)

I met  Sharifullah, a fellow Fulbrighter from Afghanistan, during the orientation for international students at Montclair State University. It had been the first time I had met someone from this country. It is with regret that I admit its images are not quite peaceful but are largely dominated by past and ongoing conflicts involving religion, politics, etc. Seeing Sharifullah so willing to make new connections, I actually thought of peace and friendship and imagined how hard it must have been for him to keep these values strong especially while making international connections. Sharifullah seems very good at this. After presenting me with saffron, one of Afghanistan’s popular spices, as a birthday gift, he generously shared his story of learning English, which for him has been a very long and difficult process. He started learning this language at an elementary school in Pakistan where English is widely used as a communication tool. Unfortunately, the level of language instruction in his home country left a lot to be desired. The greatest challenge that Sharifullah seems to share with a lot of language learners was speaking as there used to be limited, if any at all, possibilities to practise. What Sharifullah succeeded in was reading and listening as they opened up a whole new world for him. According to Sharifullah, over the past decade English use has been on the rise in Afghanistan that has the history of being colonized thus making people generally hostile towards foreign languages. Now as times are changing and there is a growing need to reach out and cooperate with other nations, people of Afghanistan are ready to rise up to a new challenge, which Sharifullah calls part of their national identity. He is here in the USA studying Nutrition and Food Science and English is a readily available tool of accessing global research into this field that is only emerging in his home country. As there are two official languages in Afghanistan (Pashto and Dari), Sharifullah’s little son is bound to become bilingual and probably learn even more languages than his father. Good luck to Sharifullah as one of his missions after he returns is to establish a new institution in his home city of Kabul while making use of the knowledge he is working hard to get while studying at Montclair State University.