Swahili is expanding across Africa as a major language -- and at Kansas State University, too.
K-State is now offering four semesters of Swahili instruction: Swahili I and II, both offered since fall 2007, and the new Swahili III and IV. While the courses are open to any student, they are encouraged for students who are in K-State's African studies program; plan research in Africa or to study abroad in Africa; or who have a general interest in the continent.
The courses are offered in conjunction with K-State's department of modern languages and African Studies Center, both in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Geofred Osoro, K-State's new Swahili instructor, said Swahili is a thriving and rapidly growing language.
"Swahili, commonly referred to by native speakers as Kiswahili, is spoken by more than 150 million people in eastern and central Africa," Osoro said. "It is the national and official language of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and one of the four national languages of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other countries where Swahili is spoken include Rwanda, Burundi, northern Mozambique, northern Zambia, Malawi and southern Somalia."
Osoro earned a doctor of education, specializing in education leadership, from Michigan State University. He also has a master's in linguistics and African languages, specializing in Swahili language and literature, from the University of Nairobi in Kenya; and a bachelor's in education, specializing in teaching of the Swahili language and literature, from Moi University in Kenya. Osoro has previously taught Swahili at Michigan State, Kalamazoo College in Michigan and at colleges and high schools in Kenya. In addition, he has taught for the Summer Cooperative African Language Institute, a federally funded program.
"Individuals with academic and research interests in east and central Africa find Swahili a useful tool in the field," Osoro said. "Archaeologists digging for fossils in the Great Rift Valley, linguists studying African languages, and researchers from a variety of fields find Swahili invaluable in their work.
"Given the multiplicity of languages spoken in east and central Africa, researchers find the knowledge of Swahili especially important because they are able to communicate with speakers of other languages as Swahili is the lingua franca of those two regions of Africa," he said.
The study of Swahili goes hand-in-hand with an increased interest in the important and vast continent of Africa, according to Robert Corum, professor and head of K-State's department of modern languages.
"As is the case with all languages, the history of Swahili traces the history of a people and their culture," Corum said. "As the Swahili people of the East African coast became important traders beginning in the 11th century, commercial centers emerged along the entire East African coast and gave rise to Swahili culture, with much Islamic influence. Religion provided inspiration for Swahili poetry resulting in a unique literary tradition.
"Today, Swahili is used in government and administration, commerce, trade, primary and secondary education, popular culture, and media," he said.