Featured Colleague: Proficient in Six Languages and Counting, Warda Zaman Embraces Cultural DiversityShare
By Dani Moritz-Long
Urdu, Hindi, Pashto, Japanese, French and English — this is the impressive list of languages that Warda Zaman, support specialist II, can speak fluently (not to mention her ear for Korean, Spanish and Russian, and her literacy in Arabic). Of course, Warda, who has a natural aptitude for picking up on new languages, doesn’t plan to stop there. German, Russian, Turkish and Chinese are next on the list of languages Warda hopes to one day become fluent in.
This zest for language is largely rooted in her upbringing. Though born in the U.S., Warda’s parents are both from Pakistan and, from her childhood on, she’s traveled the world — collecting passport stamps from countries like Canada, England, Iceland, Sweden, Spain, Norway, the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Germany. (As you might have guessed, her passport stamp collection is also something she wants to expand, particularly to Asian countries like Japan and China.)
For Warda, these travels have not only proved exciting adventures, but also eye-opening experiences. Reflecting on a summer-long trip to her parents’ small hometown in Pakistan, she said, “A lot of it opened my eyes about how grateful I am to live here. That summer I lived in that town, I lost so much weight and got sick. I needed to go to the hospital and get an IV, and I had mosquito bites all over me. It really opened my eyes, because I understood what people go through there.”
Fortunately, during her trip, Warda was at least able to communicate.
Growing up, she spoke her parents’ native tongues of Urdu, Hindi and Pashto and, at school, she spoke English.
At 13, she started to add Japanese to her resume of languages.
“I didn’t grow up with cable,” she explained. “We had Dish Network, and my parents got their own channels from Pakistan. Once in a while, a Japanese channel would show up. I became fascinated by the culture and the language. It was such a clean and crisp language — so particular and to the point.”
Her mom encouraged her to explore her interest in the language and, before she knew it, Japanese television inspired a pursuit to truly understand the language. She picked it up via books and internet videos (“from,” Warda laughed, “back in the day when the internet was so slow”). She also learned the language by corresponding with Japanese pen pals, many of whom Warda is still in contact with today.
After learning Japanese on her own, she tackled French in high school and college — happy to add another language to her already impressive collection.
Throughout her life, Warda, who has a bachelor’s degree in public administration, has found her passion for language to be a useful tool. In Orlando, an international hub for tourists from all over the world, it helps her communicate with those from all walks of life. Similarly, it’s helped her as a non-native speaker when traveling abroad.
When she worked at the Kobe Japanese Steakhouse in college, it helped her communicate with Japanese patrons. As an online English teacher for Chinese children, it helps her bridge connections and, as a support specialist at Valencia, it helps her communicate with a diverse population of students, faculty and staff — which is her favorite part of working at Valencia.
“Everyone at Valencia is so sweet, and so open and diverse,” Warda said. “You see all kinds of people here. I love the diversity and seeing people from all different cultures and backgrounds. Working with international students and hearing their backstory is also so amazing.”
To that effect, Warda invites anyone who wants to share their language and/or culture with her to reach out. To say hello (in any language you like), Warda asks that you email her at email@example.com.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.