PROFILE: Mohsen Jalali, language mentor

Mohsen Jalali teaching Persian

Profile: Mohsen Jalali, Language Mentor

“When I came here, it was the first time I had taught Persian, though I had experience teaching English,” says Mohsen Jalali, a mentor with the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages. “I was worried it would be boring, but when I started teaching, I found it fascinating because it’s about rethinking your own language. In this way, it makes the relationship with the students closer because you feel that while you’re teaching, you’re learning your own language again.”

Mohsen Jalali teaching Persian
Iranian-born Jalali has been teaching his native tongue to students at the five campuses for six years. Born and raised in a small village on the outskirts of Isfahan, the country’s third-largest city, Jalali learned English and received a graduate degree in philosophy at the University of Tehran. He was connected to Five Colleges through the Institute of International Education and came to the area to teach Persian in the language center’s Mentored Language Program.

“I’m interested in the social aspects of language and in my teaching I have many chances to explore why we say things we do,” says Jalali. “All of sudden you become conscious of the reasons for different phrases and jargon that you hadn’t thought about before.

“Because we’re in small classrooms or work one to one, we’re able to develop close friendships. I tell students they’re doing a self-study and that I’m here to help them, which means that the teacher hierarchy is not there, so I can be their friend.

Launched in 2004, the program pairs experienced language instructors with students in one-on-one and small-group settings to teach and learn Persian, Hindi, Swahili, Turkish and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. Jalali is one of seven mentors currently working with the center.

Mohsen Jalali teaching Persian
“Some of my best experiences teaching have been developing close relationships and laughing together with students,” Jalali says. “I enjoy teaching and I find it very rewarding. You’re learning with your student, so you understand each other and it makes the relationship more engaged and interactive.

“After a while, you’re in your students’ mind—after teaching one-to-one for two to three years, you understand what they’re thinking. There’s so much possibility to learn when you teach, and teaching my own language has shown me that I’m up for teaching for a long time.

Jalali is studying political science in graduate school at UMass. After earning his PhD, he plans to go into academia, in either the United States or Iran.