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Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

Language Contact and Email Address:

Abdul Nanji


Swahili (Kiswahili) is an African language spoken by well over 120 million people in East and Central Africa, South Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo, some parts of Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and the Islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Comoro. It is a national language of Kenya and Tanzania and the medium of instruction in primary schools in Tanzania. In addition, it is studied as a subject at the university level in Tanzania and Kenya.

Swahili language study at Columbia is communicative and dynamic. Students develop language skills rapidly through the use of situated language, such as in personal situations, various daily activities, and professional life. Students in the Elementary level will be introduced to various materials that will include literature, folk tales, plays, poems, songs, newspapers and magazine articles, commercials, films, music videos and other types of audio-visual materials. Aspects of Swahili and other East and Central African cultures are introduced and highlighted as necessary components towards achieving communicative and cultural competence.

At the higher levels of language study, students engage in a critical analysis of issues confronting Swahili and other East African communities just before the end of European colonial rule and the independence era. Autobiographies, biographies, plays, poetry, short stories, novels, essays, journal articles, multimedia performing arts, music and major issues in social media are examined to study the creative forces generating and framing conversations in political economy, social and cultural issues, education, health, science, environment and other important issues in East Africa.

Completing the Intermediate level Swahili (Kiswahili) courses will allow students to do the following:

1. Fulfill language requirement for undergraduate and graduate majors at Columbia University and various universities in the USA, Canada, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and Newzealand.
2. Fulfill language requirement for applications for Masters programs, Phd programs, and Professional Graduate programs such as International Affairs, Law, Business, Education, Science, Health, Medicine, Environment, Climate, Agriculture, Nutrition, Archeology, Journalism, Performing Arts, Music, Film and Fashion Design.
3. Apply for funding for Swahili (Kiswahili) Study Abroad Programs and field research, like the Fulbright Hays Study Abroad Program (FLAS)Swahili, The Boren Awards Scholarship for Swahili (Kiswahili), Yale University Swahili Summer Session, Wellesley College Winter Session in East Africa, Critical Language Scholarship Program, Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship for Research in Africa.

Please check the Columbia Directory of Classes for up-to-date information on class times and locations.