Paterno Fellow completes language research in Africa

Anna Thoet
November 26, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Daniel Zahn, a Penn State junior majoring in English, philosophy, and communication arts and sciences, recently participated in a linguistics research project in Bassila, Benin. The research focused on everyday language use, which consisted of interviewing local students on how many languages they spoke, when they used what language, and their attitudes toward different languages. Additionally, the students assisted in creating archival footage of the Anii traditions in the Anii language.

The enrichment experience showed Zahn, a Paterno Fellow, the power of his studies and made him realize the value of exploring the world beyond school. The experience gave him the opportunity to see the other side of research papers and how linguistics played out in real time. Since the research was in Benin, a Francophone country in West Africa, Zahn was able to utilize his French language skills to communicate with community members. Zahn also witnessed the diversity of languages in Benin, where he interacted with the native languages of Anii, Fon, and many others.

Financial support from the Career Enrichment Network in the College of the Liberal Arts made it possible for Zahn to conduct research in Benin. With the help of the staff at the Career Enrichment Network and the monetary support, Zahn was able to focus on his experience instead of how he would finance the research opportunity.

“I don't think I would have even considered being able to do something like this before I realized how dedicated the College of the Liberal Arts was to making sure I was able to expand my learning experience outside the classroom,” said Zahn.

Zahn’s time in Benin solidified his career goal of helping others. After graduation, Zahn plans to return to West Africa to teach English.

“I experienced a culture so different from my own — so focused on community, so eager to help one another. I will not allow myself to go into a career where I don't feel that I'm giving back to someone or the community,” said Zahn.

If you’d like to help Liberal Arts students pursue internships, study abroad, research, and other enrichment experiences, visit the College of the Liberal Arts’ Giving Tuesday page and give to the Liberal Arts Edge Fund on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Graduates of the last decade can double their impact because the University will match their gifts up to $100 on Giving Tuesday.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 26, 2018