New Swahili class might spark African Studies program at K-State

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Students are experimenting with a recently added language this semester.

Swahili I is offered in the modern languages department, though the numbers of students enrolled in the class are low.

Robert Corum, department head of modern languages, said the new Swahili class has only five students enrolled this semester. However, he said, this is just the beginning.

“Other language classes such as Arabic and Chinese began with similar enrollments,” Corum said. “I’m confident that enrollment will increase.”

Edward Nafziger, graduate student in food safety and Swahili professor, said he thought enrollment for the class will increase in the future.

“I have seen an overwhelming interest in the language,” Nafziger said. “I get e-mails at least every week about it.”

Nafziger said he structured the class similar to other language courses offered at K-State. He targets components like pronunciation, simple sentences and greetings.

“My ultimate goal for the students is for them to be able to express themselves fluently in the language,” he said.

The course is the first African language class offered at K-State and is part of the new African Studies Center established at the university.

Emizet Kisangani, associate professor of political science and director of the African Studies Center, said the university created the center after receiving a Targeted Excellence Grant for $253,725 to establish a greater African cultural awareness at the university.

He said the center’s purpose was two fold.

“With this grant, we hope to both increase K-State visibility by doing research with African universities and establish a minor in African studies for undergraduates,” Kisangani said.

Kisangani said more than 20 professors are doing African-related research at K-State – nearly twice as many as other universities like the University of Kansas, which already has an African Studies program and several African language classes.

“We have more Africanists at K-State than other nearby universities,” Kisangani said, “but not nearly as many African courses of study.”

The Swahili course is helping K-State close the gap with other universities.

“We are far, far behind other universities offering African Studies,” Kisangani said. “We need to catch up if we can.”

Corum said Swahili II is set to be available in spring 2008. He said he hoped to expand the program to Swahili VI and eventually to a minor in the language.

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