Campus & Community

African language program launched:

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Students can learn Hausa, Swahili

The Department of African and African American Studies is launching a new African Language Program. Beginning this fall, undergraduate students can study Hausa and Swahili with two experts in the field of African language, as well as travel to Kenya, Niger, and Ghana for further study.

Swahili, the most widely spoken language in eastern Africa, will be offered this year in an elementary course under the teaching of John Mugane, director of the African Language Program and senior preceptor in African and African American Studies. Mugane will also be directing the African Language Tutorials Course, which will offer students individualized study in Igbo, Kikuyu, Twi, Wolof, Yoruba, and Zulu.

Hausa, an important lingua franca of West Africa, will also be studied at the elementary level under the teaching of John Hutchison. Hutchison teaches at Boston University, where he is the coordinator of the African Language Program. Hutchison will be a visiting professor of African and African American Studies this year at Harvard. The emphasis in all of the African language courses will be on oral fluency, reading comprehension, and written expression.

“With the launch of these courses, we hope to become the leading institution in North America in the study of Africa and be a noted program for intellectual rigor and the integration of African perspectives,” said Emmanuel Akyeampong, professor of history and chair of the Committee on African Studies. “This is an important opportunity for students to receive language instruction within a comprehensive African Studies program as well as fulfill requirements towards a degree in African Studies.”

In the summer of 2004, students will also have the opportunity to gain additional understanding of the language and culture by traveling to Africa. Specifically, students who have completed the elementary Hausa course can travel to the University of Niamey in Niger to undertake further language study and directed field study in environment or health.

Students interested in furthering their study of Kikuyu or Swahili have the chance to visit universities in Kenya and can also participate in an oral history project led by Caroline Elkins, assistant professor of history. The project focuses on the life stories of survivors from the “Mau Mau rebellion.” At the completion of this multiyear project, Widener Library may become the only depository outside of Kenya to house the digitized interviews.

Finally, students who want to advance in their study of Twi, or take a semester abroad in an African university can travel to the University of Ghana for a semester of planned academic study.