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Centre of African Studies: Studying Africa


Swahili at Edinburgh

Swahili since 2012

The first ever accredited Swahili courses at the University of Edinburgh was run through the School of Social and Political Science (SPS) in the 2013/14 academic year, available to postgraduate students. The aim of these courses was to provide a contemporary, interactive, stimulating and effective introduction to the Swahili language. Teaching was based on a newly-designed curriculum and an innovative approach to learning that seeks to link the language to 21st century East African themes, such as music, literature, social media and the environment.

The courses proved so successful that it ran again in the 2014/15 academic year. In both these years, we have seen students make exceptional progress in a very short space of time, to the extent that each has been able to read newspaper articles, create complex compositions, perform interviews with native speakers and confidently make presentations in Swahili after only 20 weeks of study. 

2015 also saw the first ever Swahili Summer School, run through Edinburgh Global, in which ten students travelled to Butiama (Tanzania), to learn Swahili in the family home of the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. The experiences of the students has been recorded in a blog, which can be accessed here.

This year, we have now launched courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level and are excited to now be able to offer Swahili to all students at the University. More details on the individual courses can be found on this website, on drps, or by contacting Teresa Poeta.

Why Study Swahili?

Learning Swahili should be considered a crucial step for anyone seeking to travel to East Africa for research, volunteering, work or travel, as knowledge of the language will enable you to engage positively with those from the region, better understand your environment and acquire a different perspective on local issues. Swahili can provide an excellent insight into the links between language, culture and history and a linguistic basis from which to explore other Bantu languages, which share similar grammatical and lexical features. Of course, in an increasingly competitive job market, learning a language like Swahili will also do not harm at all to your CV! 

Why Edinburgh?

The Swahili courses at the University of Edinburgh will help you progress at a fast pace, while also teaching you about contemporary issues, figures and various aspects of East African culture. Each course will teach you over five hundred items of vocabulary and taking both will help you to understand the vast majority of Swahili grammar. Furthermore, you will learn much about East African culture, important cultural and historical figures and a variety of contemporary issues ranging from the China-Tanzania relationship to the music industry and mobile banking. You will even get the opportunity in the second semester to learn how to cook a variety of East African dishes, including ugali, maandazi and chapati.

Finally, our courses ensure that you get sufficient practice not only in reading and writing, but speaking and listening too. You will have weekly conversation classes with native speakers, as well as having the opportunity to participate in an optional weekly two-hour language corner with members of the East African community and other students interested in the language. 

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