How to Study Swahili

You can study Swahili through elective college courses or a degree or certificate program in African studies. Get information on program types, online learning, language study and the benefits of speaking a major African language.

What Are My Options for Learning Swahili?

Swahili may be offered as individual courses or as parts of certificate and degree programs. Although degree programs specializing in the Swahili language are rare, courses in Swahili are usually available in related areas, such as African studies. In an African studies undergraduate or graduate program, you can study the Swahili language in order to gain an understanding of contemporary African society, history and culture. Additionally, you may choose to study abroad in an African country. While studying abroad is not typically required for most programs, you may be able to use your study abroad experience to earn credits toward a Swahili certificate.

Program Options Individual Swahili courses and degree or certificate programs in African studies are available
Online Availability Certain universities may offer online courses in Swahili; digital learning resources are available on various academic institutions' websites
Study Time Proficiency depends on the student's initial level of Swahili, as well as the amount of time and number of courses spent studying the language
Language Benefits Ability to communicate in several African countries, most notably Kenya and Tanzania; allows for career and networking opportunities in African marketplace

Can I Learn Swahili Online?

Swahili is taught at many institutions in the United States and may be available online through distance-learning courses or as free digital resources in the form of grammar guides, dictionaries and vocabulary enhancers. To participate in an online course, you'll need a computer with Internet access and an e-mail account. You'll typically use a digital learning platform like Blackboard to take tests, submit assignments and interact with classmates and faculty. Your coursework may also come through audio and video files.

How Long Will It Take to Learn Swahili?

The length of time you'll have to study Swahili will depend on the level of learning you choose. The type of program you enroll in may also play a role in the learning process, as some certificate programs are only offered in the spring or fall. Schools often offer Swahili for beginning, intermediate and advanced students. You may be required to complete certain prerequisite Swahili courses before advancing to the next level. Typically, after one year of beginner-level study, a student can expect to be orally proficient in Swahili at a mid- to high-beginner level.

What Are the Benefits of Knowing Swahili?

Swahili is the language most commonly spoken in East and Central Africa, and it is the national language of Tanzania and Kenya. Other African countries where Swahili is spoken include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda and Somalia. With Africa becoming a popular travel destination, you will benefit by having a working knowledge of the Swahili language, whether for research, work or travel. Learning Swahili will also be helpful if you plan to be employed by or involved with a global organization specializing in the African marketplace.

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