Ohio University

Swahili Courses and STARTALK

You are welcome in Swahili: karibuni sana Ohio.
Karabuni Sana Ohio. You are welcome here.

About Swahili

Swahili is spoken across East Africa. It is mostly spoken in Kenya and Tanzania as a national and official language. It is also used in Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Comoros Islands. Smaller numbers of its speakers can be found in Rwanda, Burundi, Northern Zambia and parts of Mozambique.

The word for Swahili language is Kiswahili and belongs to the Bantu family of languages. The origin of the word Swahili comes from the plural “sawahili” of the Arabic word “sahil" which means the coast. Swahili has been greatly influenced by Arabic in its vocabulary while its grammar and syntactic structure is purely of Bantu origin. The language also contains a few vocabularies that originates from German, Portuguese, Hindi, Persian, English and French

There are approximately 5 million Swahili speakers in the world who use it their native language. There are an additional 135 million people for whom Swahili is a second or third or foreign language. Swahili is recognized as one of the official languages of the African Union and is the official language of the East African Community.

Why Study Swahili at OHIO?

Today, African languages like Swahili are more in demand than ever before as the world becomes more globalized. Knowledge of Swahili opens doors to many opportunities both locally and internationally.

  • Students can enroll in Swahili courses to complete their language requirement for graduation. Also, students who are working toward related certificates or degrees in International Studies can also take Swahili as part of their course requirements.
  • Students enrolled in Swahili courses are eligible for a number of opportunities such as scholarships, grants, and other funding related to language learning and travel. Some of these Swahili related funding opportunities include: the Gilman International Scholarship, the Boren Awards African languages Initiative Scholarships and Fellowships, the Critical Language Scholarship Program, FLAS Fellowships and the Group Projects Abroad Fulbright Hays Swahili Program.
  • Swahili is one of the few languages that qualifies students for the Critical Languages Scholarship. CLS is a scholarship program provided by the U.S. government through the departments of State and Defense to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to the national security and prosperity. Students awarded with CLS study in Arusha, Tanzania for eight weeks, learning one full academic year of Swahili.
  • Swahili will provide students with a unique experience and insight into the Swahili and East African culture at large and also present the chance to be part of a strong global community of over 100 million Swahili speakers.

How OHIO Teaches

Swahili instruction at Ohio University emphasizes the communicative approach to language teaching. Instructors help students develop their knowledge of Swahili in the four language learning skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Furthermore, the language is taught according to the ACTFL proficiency guidelines in all the levels administered. The program is specially designed to expose students to the culture and history of the Swahili language and the people through cultural activities. Also, students are provided with the opportunity to interact with other native speakers of the language as a way to improve their speaking skills through cultural activities.

Courses Offered

  • Elementary Swahili – SWAH 1110 and 1120
  • Intermediate Swahili – SWAH 2110 and 2120
  • Advanced Swahili – SWAH 3110 and 3120
  • Special studies in Swahili – For any level

Swahili Placement Testing Information

Students who have prior knowledge of Swahili should contact the Linguistics Department for test-out and language course placement information. The placement test is provided online. Students wishing to take placement tests should email the department lingdept@ohio.edu through their OHIO email account and include in the subject line: "Swahili Language Placement Test." The student will receive an email from the department with instructions on how take the test. Students who have no prior background in Swahili, or would like to begin with a new foreign language, do not need to take a placement test but should register for the beginning course (e.g. 1110).

Links to Learn More about Swahili