UI to host African linguistics

By Lisa Chung

In conjunction with the Department of Linguistics and the Center for African Studies, the University will offer students the opportunity to study African languages through the national Summer Cooperative African Language Institute, which designated the University as its host for the summers of 2007 and 2008.

The institute changes its location every two years to a different university with an African area studies center that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a “Title VI National Resource Center.”

During the academic year, the African language program at the University enrolls about 800 students and offers courses in six different African languages, including Arabic and Zulu, said Eyamba Bokamba, director of the Summer Cooperative African Language Institute and professor of linguistics. He added that these students also tend to enroll in the summer programs.

Enrollment in the summer institute has become increasingly competitive, Bokamba said. Those that register represent a myriad of backgrounds and range from University undergraduate and graduate students to federal government employees. Last summer, 30 different universities were represented at the school.

“There are a number of advantages in studying these languages,” Bokamba said. “They represent … an investment language and they open up opportunities for people.”

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The eight-week summer course meets four hours a day, Monday through Friday beginning June 9 and running through Aug. 1, and is a very intensive program, said Maimouna Barro, associate director of the Center for African Studies. The courses are taught using the chosen language and are equivalent to one year of language instruction.

In addition to what is learned in the classroom, the institute exposes students to the culture associated with the target language to enhance the learning experience, Bokamba said. Extracurricular activities such as cooking demonstrations and culture festivals help cultivate a more complete education.

“Language is a part of culture and by learning a language students are exposed to the traditions and customs associated with their language of choice,” Barro said. “It’s really important to have some language skills in order to better understand and appreciate what other cultures have to offer.”

Language offerings

The following will be offered if there is sufficient enrollment:

Amharic Igbo

Arabic, Standard Kikongo

Arabic, Egyptian or Moroccan Kinyarwanda

Bamana Luganda

Lingala Pulaar

Swahili Setswana

Wolof Shona

Zulu Somali

Afrikaans Songhay

Akan/Twi Tigrinya

Chichewa Xhosa

Chitonga Yoruba


Students may enroll in November through the SCALI Web site at: http://scali.afrst.uiuc.edu

source: Summer Cooperative African Language Institute, Center for African Studies