UI to host African Language Institute this summer

By Andrea Cheng

This summer, the University will be hosting the Summer Cooperative African Language Institute for the first time.

This opportunity will give individuals the chance to attend four hour classes, four days a week for seven weeks from June 18 to Aug. 4, earning the same number of credit hours equivalent to one entire academic year.

The institute is a cooperative program involving African Title VI National Resource Centers. These centers are located at 12 other universities across the nation and are specifically designed to focus on African studies. The language institute rotates between various universities about every two summers, including Indiana University, where it has been the past two years.

“This is the first year the University of Illinois will host this. We know for sure it’s going to be here for 2007 and 2008,” said Sue Swisher, administrative aid at the Center for African Studies.

Eyamba Bokamba, professor of linguistics and director of the languages program, is responsible for screening instructors, disseminating information, monitoring interest and dealing with the number of languages that will be selected for the program.

The University offers nine languages on a regular basis, six of which are African languages.

In addition to the six, seven more languages will be offered depending on the number of students who express interest.

“Retention of a particular language is dependent on enrollment,” Bokamba said. “Minimum, we need three students per level to offer a class.”

Currently, 250 individuals have expressed interest and, as of two weeks ago, 77 have applied.

Bokamba said if the University program acquires even half of 250, the number of enrollment will still be 30 to 40 percent higher than the number of individuals who attended the previous summer.

“That may be because our university offers the largest program in African languages in the country,” Bokamba said.

Undergraduate students are not the only students eligible for the program.

Graduate students interested in research in Africa and non-traditional students who work overseas in Africa and wish to grasp the language are all eligible.

With four days a week of classes, Friday is left open for other activities including language festivals, African film showings, music and cooking.

Maimouna Barro, assistant director of the Center for African Studies, said the program is intensive since it encompasses a whole year compacted into one summer.

The cultural activities help balance the stress most students feel.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s condensed within a short time as opposed to 14 to 16 weeks of learning in the same number of credit hours,” Bokamba said. “That’s the beauty of it.”