Center for Language Studies


Swahili is important as a lingua franca in Africa and is spoken by over 140 million people. It is the national or official language of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is spoken in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Comoro Islands, Malawi, east Zaire, southern Somalia, northern Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Northern Zambia.

Why Study Swahili?

You most likely already know one phrase in Swahili: Hakuna Matata. And did you know that the cultural festival Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili word kwanza which means first?

Being able to speak Swahili can help you do governmental work, diplomacy, or work for an NGO in Africa and work with immigrant populations in the United States.  You will be able to effectively carry out research projects and take on volunteer opportunities in East Africa and the surrounding regions. It’s particularly useful for doing business in Kenya, the country with the largest economy in East and Central Africa and that has seen massive growth in areas such as telecommunications in the last decade. There’s even a growing online tech-culture scene known as Swahilihood.

Swahili is important as a lingua franca in Africa so much so that the BBC broadcasts radio programmes in Swahili as does Voice of America and Deutsche Welle. Swahili has been influenced by a variety of languages, including Arabic, Portuguese, German and English. There are many Swahili words with foreign origins, for example: sita/six (Arabic), shule/school (German), bendera/flag (Portuguese), pesa/money (Hindi) and redio/radio (English).

Required Materials for the Beginning Swahili course - LANG0150S
Students will be working with this open educational resource for Swahili created at the University of Kansas as well as with their new resources to be released this summer Hujambo!. The new materials provide a complete curriculum for introductory Kiswahili organized into eight units that chronicle the adventures of two American students studying abroad in Tanzania for an academic year. Learners follow them from their arrival at the airport until they depart home, providing an opportunity to learn about their host families, academic pursuits, and free time with friends. Conversations with members of the local community, as well as emails and texts they send to one another, provide meaningful insights about their encounters with a new culture and how it shapes their view of the larger world.