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Swahili Studies

Swahili is spoken by various ethnic groups that inhabit several large stretches of the Indian Ocean coastline from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique, including the Comoros Islands. Although only 5-10 million people speak it as their native language, Swahili is also a lingua franca of much of East Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a national or official language of four nations, and is the only language of African origin among the official working languages of the African Union.  Learn more about the FLL – African Languages Specialization here.

About African Languages

The African languages track offers a unique opportunity when it comes to seeking employment in multi-national corporations or research undertakings based on the African continent. Our track also prepares students for the rigors of graduate studies in the humanities and for fields such as comparative literature, religious/ diaspora studies, African cinema, developmental practices, humanitarian services, language learning businesses, translations & interpretation for United Nations organizations and other international agencies, to mention just a few.

The track is committed to enabling students develop the critical, analytical, and interpretive tools essential for successfully and productively working and living in today’s increasingly globalizing world. It focuses on a selected group of languages that function as languages of wider communication (lingua franca) in their sub-Saharan African regions. This list includes Akan/Twi (Ghana – West Africa), Amharic (Ethiopia- the Horn of Africa), Swahili (eastern and central Africa), Wolof (Senegal and the Gambia – West Africa), Yoruba (Nigeria and Benin – West Africa and the Diaspora), and Zulu (South Africa). Through studying these selected languages students not only gain communicative proficiency in the language(s) of their choice, but also a great understanding of the diverse literary and cultural traditions that make Africa such a fascinatingly unique and complex continent today.

Our faculty brings together scholars with diverse research interests, ranging from African oral literature through post-colonial African women writers, from language documentation to languages of urban Africa as well as contemporary African film, pop-culture and media. These nationally and internationally recognized researchers are also dedicated and innovative teachers who draw on their own scholarship to offer a variety of courses in literature, cinema, linguistics, and language.  Moreover, our courses are chosen not just by majors and minors in African languages but by students in fields such as anthropology, religion, history, art history, political science, other languages and literatures, and European and Asian studies, as well as by students in linguistics, business and the sciences, who participate in our program in order to enrich their own. Indeed, the training we provide gives our graduates an important advantage as they pursue careers in an increasingly competitive global environment.