“I am not just trying to teach a language to my students, but also a culture and a country,” says Tabassum Zaman, the Fulbright Scholar who is serving as Marlboro’s Bengali language instructor. “The Bangladeshi people had to shed their blood just to gain the right to speak in Bengali, so there is a very rich history behind the language which I cherish and strive to present in class.”
Having lived her entire life in Dhaka the capitol of Bangladesh, Tabassum has invaluable insight into the customs of the Bangladeshi people. Those customs, she says, are so diverse from those of the United States that it is difficult to compare the two societies. “I enjoy discussing the variations between our countries with my class because Bangladesh has traditions that my students cannot even imagine, unique festivals, and very different morals and values. While teaching, I use the cultural aspects of the language as a medium through which they can not only achieve a better understanding of Bengali, but also be infused with a sense of my people and country.”
As a Fulbright Scholar, Tabassum is attending classes as well as teaching. She chose to come to Marlboro, in part, because the school’s liberal arts curriculum would allow her to integrate both her love of language and literature into her studies. “I like to approach a language through literature because I believe that literature is a language in operation,” she says.
Tabassum appreciates the kind of educational environment Marlboro has immersed her in. “There is a very commutative approach to teaching and learning at Marlboro, and it is something that I will use when I return home and am teaching there,” she says. “This kind of exposure gives you techniques and empowers you with tools that one can not just read about in a book and learn; I get to actually see how it works.”
After her Fulbright term is complete, Tabassum will resume her position as an English and literature instructor at BRAC University in Dhaka. Until then—through teaching and simply being here—Tabassum hopes to bring two distinctly different nations that much closer together. “It is an honor to work as a kind of cultural ambassador—upholding and presenting my country to others. I’m enjoying it to the fullest.”