Featured Colleague: Proficient in Six Languages and Counting, Warda Zaman Embraces Cultural Diversity

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 wzaman@valenciacollege.edu.

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.

14 Comments

  • Leah said:

    You rock, Warda! ODHR is lucky to have you. 🙂

    PMTue, 27 Jun 2017 16:01:39 +0000Tue, 27 Jun 2017 16:01:39 +0000pm17,4:01 pm

    • Warda said:

      Thank you so much, Leah! I'm lucky to be working with such incredible people! 🙂

      PMWed, 28 Jun 2017 15:38:57 +0000Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:38:57 +0000pm17,3:38 pm

  • Edwin Lopez said:

    Congrats, we appreciate all you do.

    AMWed, 28 Jun 2017 06:47:50 +0000Wed, 28 Jun 2017 06:47:50 +0000am17,6:47 am

    • Warda said:

      Thank you so much Edwin, and same to you! 🙂

      PMWed, 28 Jun 2017 15:39:37 +0000Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:39:37 +0000pm17,3:39 pm

  • Jeff Nardo said:

    Very, very impressive, Warda! She is a pleasure to work with and a valuable asset to the ODHR Team!

    AMWed, 28 Jun 2017 09:05:06 +0000Wed, 28 Jun 2017 09:05:06 +0000am17,9:05 am

    • Warda said:

      So nice of you to say Jeff! Thank you so much – I am very glad to be a part of it! 🙂

      PMWed, 28 Jun 2017 15:53:11 +0000Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:53:11 +0000pm17,3:53 pm

  • Noelia said:

    Great article! Warda is always welcoming and helpful in the ODHR offices.

    AMWed, 28 Jun 2017 11:09:45 +0000Wed, 28 Jun 2017 11:09:45 +0000am17,11:09 am

    • Warda said:

      Hi Noelia! Thank you very much, it's always lovely to see you! 🙂 Btw, I accidentally clicked the "thumbs down" button! Oops – meant the other one! 🙂

      PMWed, 28 Jun 2017 15:54:48 +0000Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:54:48 +0000pm17,3:54 pm

  • Wendy Jo Moyer said:

    Warda, thank you for all of your Grove help. We appreciate you. And I never knew how many languages you spoke until this article. Impressive!

    AMThu, 29 Jun 2017 09:08:36 +0000Thu, 29 Jun 2017 09:08:36 +0000am17,9:08 am

    • Warda said:

      Aww, thank you so much Wendy! I'm so glad to be a part of your team! 🙂

      AMFri, 30 Jun 2017 11:34:50 +0000Fri, 30 Jun 2017 11:34:50 +0000am17,11:34 am

  • Ruth Ridore said:

    Japanese at 13?! That is so impressive Warda! Awesome article. You're always so welcoming at the front desk when I walk in. Thanks for all that you do for the team.

    PMThu, 29 Jun 2017 15:58:00 +0000Thu, 29 Jun 2017 15:58:00 +0000pm17,3:58 pm

    • Warda said:

      So sweet of you to say- thank you, Ruth! Always lovely to see you at the District Office! 🙂

      AMFri, 30 Jun 2017 11:36:06 +0000Fri, 30 Jun 2017 11:36:06 +0000am17,11:36 am

  • Dr. Yasmeen Qadri said:

    Congratulations Warda, you know so many languages what a gift!!

    Would love to communicate with you in Hindi, Urdu, and Arabic some time soon. I teach Diversity for Educators and value maintaining the languages as it also helps greatly with cross-cultural understanding!

    AMSun, 02 Jul 2017 02:53:12 +0000Sun, 02 Jul 2017 02:53:12 +0000am17,2:53 am

    • Warda said:

      Hi Dr. Qadri,
      I would absolutely love that! Please call me anytime 🙂 I want to practice on my Arabic skills.
      Very interesting subject you teach as well, by the way. Diversity in the educational setting is one of the most significant aspects!

      PMWed, 05 Jul 2017 13:24:25 +0000Wed, 05 Jul 2017 13:24:25 +0000pm17,1:24 pm

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