Languages Offered

The Department of African and African-American Studies at the University of Kansas regularly offers Arabic, Kiswahili, Wolof, and Haitian Creole as its featured languages of Africa and the Diaspora.

The Kansas African Studies Center endeavors to promote the study of additional African languages such as Somali and Amharic. Faculty at the University of Kansas who possess competency in other African languages may be available to supervise individual language instruction. If you have an interest in studying an African language, contact the program coordinator, Dr. Amal El Haimeur at or stop by the Center in 201 Bailey Hall. You can reach us at or 785-864-3745.


Arabic, one of the fastest growing languages, is a Semitic Language spoken widely across Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula. It is the key to understanding the culture and history of more than 22 nations and more than 280 million speakers. Arabic is also the liturgical language of more than a billion Muslims around the world, and it is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. The study of the Arabic language and Arab culture allows students to develop an appreciation for the complexity of the many facets of the Arab world: its society, culture, history, arts, religions, and literary heritage.

Mosques with intricate dome designs


Kiswahili is the most widely studied indigenous African language. It is spoken by various ethnic groups that inhabit several large stretches of the Indian Ocean coastline from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique, including the Comoros Islands. Up to 10 million people speak it as their native language, and over 130 million use it as either a first or second language in eastern and central Africa. Kiswahili is also a lingua franca of much of East Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the national or official language of four nations, and it is the only language of African origin among the official working languages of the African Union. It is used in various international radio broadcasts such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America (VOA), and Deutsche Welle (DW). It is also featured in popular films such as The Lion King and in cultural festivals like Kwanzaa. Kiswahili is taught in many academic institutions in the world from Japan in the East to Mexico in the West.

Aerial view of a beach


Wolof is a West African language spoken mainly in Senegal, Gambia and southern Mauritania. The language has influenced the societies and economies of West Africans, and it has emerged through trade as a lingua franca also used in parts of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Mali. Wolof is known internationally through the popular work of acclaimed musicians and filmmakers, like Youssou N’Dour and Ousmane Sembène. There are over 10 million speakers of Wolof in West Africa, France, the U.S., and other parts of the world.

Boats in Senegal