Swahili, or Kiswahili, as the speakers of the language call it, is the most widely spoken African language south of the Sahara. It is spoken by over 100 people in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This widespread lingua franca is an official language in Kenya and Tanzania. It is widely used in education and the media.

The origin of Swahili is traced to farming and fishing communities in the coastal areas in the present-day Kenya-Somalia border. Beginning in the eleventh century, Swahili developed as a trading language as commerce between East Africa and Arabia, Persia, and India grew. The Swahili people of the East African coast became important traders. Commercial centers emerged along the entire East African coast, thus giving rise to Swahili culture with considerable Islamic influence. Religion provided inspiration for Swahili poetry resulting in a unique literary tradition that is still extremely popular to the present.

Today, Swahili is used in government and administration, commerce, trade, primary and secondary education, popular culture and media. In the United State, it is the sub-Saharan African language that is most offered at university level. 


The following courses are offered regularly:

  1. Beginning Swahili
    1. AFR 101A – Fall Semester
    2. AFR 102A – Spring Semester
  2. Intermediate Swahili
    1. AFR 201A – Fall Semester
    2. AFR 202A – Spring Semester
  3. Advanced Swahili
    1. AFR 450A – Fall Semester
    2. AFR 450A – Spring Semester

Each semester the course is tailored to suit the cohort of that semester. This allows Advanced Swahili students to take this course more than once. In addition, we offer two independent study options in the form of AFR290 and AFR490.

Study Abroad Program

Sustainable Community Development in Tanzania

Administered by the College of Social Science

The Tanzania Partnership Program (TPP) is an innovative and interdisciplinary initiative to improve community well being while generating cutting edge knowledge about development. The Sustainable Community Development in Tanzania study abroad grows out of the TPP initiative. Through a community engagement approach students from MSU and Tanzania will work with communities to identify, understand and address community problems. Through this engagement, students will learn about approaches to development, theories of development, and the history of development in Tanzania. Students will also gain special insight into a particular issue through their community development project.

An important question the course seeks to answer is “How can development projects and associated research improve community well-being?” To answer this question, students will learn different approaches to community engagement. They will then put these theories to practice by working with communities to identify, understand and address pressing community problems. Using a community engagement approach, students will be challenged to think about practical ways to solve issues facing rural communities. The course will push students to challenge their assumptions and stereotypes about development.

The program will start and end at MS-TCDC, a training center in Usa River, with 2 weeks in the beginning, including a home stay, and 4 days at the end to debrief. The rest of the program will take place in Naitolia in northern Tanzania. As the home for Tanzania Partnership Program, Naitolia offers a site where students can learn about development as a practice, development as a subject of academic research, and development that is something experienced by local citizens. This study abroad program employs these different perspectives through community engagement projects and seeks to challenge students to understand development from various actor categories.

For more information, please contact our faculty leader Jonathan Choti.