Learn an African Language

You may take classes in African languages, including Arabic, Swahili and Zulu, through individual college courses or degree programs in African languages or African/Africana studies. Learn about your language and course options, as well as the differences between various Africa-related programs. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Can I Learn an African Language?

There are many ways to learn an African language. While bachelor's and master's degree programs specializing in Arabic - one of the most prominent African languages in the world - are widely available, degree programs in less common African languages are not as easily accessible. You can, however, find several programs specializing more broadly in African languages, African studies or Africana studies. These programs are available at the certificate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.

If you don't want to pursue a degree, you have the option of taking stand-alone classes in African languages like Swahili and Zulu. Colleges and universities often provide resources on their websites for these languages, such as free vocabulary and pronunciation guides. Other universities may offer intensive language programs.

Program OptionsCertificate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in Arabic, African languages and African/Africana studies are available
Common Courses in African Languages ProgramsMajor African languages, such as Zulu, Wolof, Hausa and Swahili; African culture and traditions
Common Courses in African/Africana Studies ProgramsAfrican religion, society, music and women
Common Courses in Arabic ProgramsElementary, intermediate and advanced Arabic; Arabic culture, history and literature

What Will I Study in an African Languages Program?

Typically, African languages programs focus on four of the major African languages: Swahili, Zulu, Wolof and Hausa. These four languages cover large geographic areas of Africa. In addition to learning how to speak, write and understand these languages, you may be able to take the following courses, depending on your degree level:

  • African culture
  • African politics
  • Oral tradition
  • African literature
  • African art
  • Anthropology

What Will I Study in an African or Africana Studies Program?

Not all African and Africana studies programs provide instruction in African languages. Some certificate and bachelor's degree programs do; typically, however, master's degree programs focus on non-language topics, such as African people, politics and social structures. Such graduate programs may expect students to already be proficient in an African language.

Certificate programs that include language instruction generally provide you with a strong background in African culture. Some certificate programs are geared toward teachers who will be working with a high volume of refugees or African-American students. In addition to language, you may study African history, geography, U.S.-Africa relations or African art.

Bachelor's degree programs may offer African language courses or cover modern Africa and its politics. You'll also spend time studying the continent's religions, music, myths, languages and traditions. Other topics may include women in Africa.

What Will I Study in an Arabic Program?

During a bachelor's degree program in Arabic, you'll begin with introductory courses in the language and progress to advanced coursework. You may also explore special topics, such as culture, literature and various Arabic dialects. You will learn how to read, speak and understand Arabic in context. Part of the curriculum may consist of reading both ancient and modern texts in the language.

In a master's degree program in Arabic, you may have structured language-learning experiences with native Arabic speakers. In comparison to bachelor's degree programs, master's degree programs tend to have more in-depth courses, usually offering advanced classes on Arabic society, literature and history. All or some of these courses may even be offered in the Arabic language itself. Some graduate programs may require you to pass an Arabic proficiency test in order to graduate.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

Popular Schools

  • Johns Hopkins University

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