2015 - Present
They were so excited about adding Swahili [to the show] that I thought, I want to be a part of this show. It's been a great opportunity for me in terms of spreading the Swahili word. Swahili is one of those languages that's not intimidating. Everyone working on the show has really embraced it.
Mirza was born in Mombasa, Kenya, and studied Linguistics at the University of Nairobi. After graduating, she moved to the United States to earn her postgraduate degree. Shortly afterward, she began teaching at UCLA. She is responsible for writing key Swahili teaching text that is used in schools around the world.
Mirza recounts that she would often speak to people in the social sphere and cite character names from The Lion King to teach people about Swahili:
- "We need a follow up, because I'll meet people at parties, and they'll say they don't know any Swahili, and I'll say, 'Really? Do you know Hakuna Matata? Do you know Simba? Do you know Rafiki?' And they say, 'Yes,' and I say, 'Well, that's Swahili.' So I've been wanting to go past the four words to more!"
She was brought on to the show by its producers, who wanted to incorporate Swahili words and phrases. Since joining the project, Mirza has created several "Swinglish" phrases: half-English and half-Swahili. For different characters, she would create names and catchphrases that matched their personality and role, such as Makuu the show-off crocodile, whose name means "big things."