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African Languages at UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill offers instruction in Arabic, Lingala, Swahili, and Wolof, which are taught to intermediate and advanced levels. The ASC has FLAS (Foreign Language Area Studies) Fellowships available for qualified undergraduate and graduate applicants. Please contact Stacey Sewall at for more information on FLAS.

Language Faculty:

Farida Badr Arabic
Samba Camara Wolof
Doria El Kerdany Arabic
Bud Kauffman Arabic
Alphonse Mutima Kiswahili, Lingala
Mohamed Mwamzandi Kiswahili
Khalid Shahu Arabic
Nadia Yaqub Arabic


Arabic is spoken in various areas of the world, including the African countries Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Sudan, Tunisia, Western Sahara, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, and Chad. Millions of residents in the Northern African countries speak Arabic and people in Nigeria and Kenya speak it as a second language. Egyptian Arabic has gained special status and is widely understood in regions outside of Egypt. Ancient archaeology and monuments such as pyramids and sphinx have contributed to the significance of Arabic language studies. Arabic Courses


Lingala is spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, in northwestern Angola, eastern Gabon, southern Central African Republic, and southwestern Sudan. Although it is not the official language of these nations, it is considered the de facto national language of the DRC and the Republic of Congo, as a large number of their populations speak it. Despite its status as the de facto language in these countries, it is the national trade language along the Congo River, the second largest river system in the world. Not only does it serve as the main trade language, but it is also complemented by the Congolese music known as “Soukous” and Congolese rumba. Knowledge of this language allows for a deeper understanding of this music and offers exposure to cultures embodied in Lingala music and oratory. Lingala Courses


Over 1 million people speak Swahili as their first language, with more than 50 milion people in eastern and central Africa using it as a second or third language. Speakers of this language can be found in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (also in Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and Somalia in smaller numbers). Not only can Swahili be found in these countries, but in other nations around the world and in popular music (Michael Jackson), films (The Lion King), and as an influence in major holidays (Kwanzaa). Swahili Courses


Residents of Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania speak Wolof. Wolof is spoken by more than 90% of the Senegalese population as either a first or second language. The Republic of Senegal holds more than 3 million Wolof people and is used by the Fulani, Serer, and Diola ethnic groups. Of the six national Senegalese languages; Wolof is one of the most widely spoken and is used as a common communication tool. Several famous Senegalese singers like Youssou Ndour and Thione Seck use Wolof in the music. If you are traveling to Senegal, French allows you to function in Senegal, but knowing Wolof would make your experience easier. Also, if you really want to learn authentic Wolof you should travel to the interior areas of Senegal like Baol and Sine Saloum. Wolof Courses

Additional Information

The Title VI African Studies Centers nationwide collaborate to offer a range of summer language study opportunities. Click Here to view a listing of language programs offered in the past by U.S. Title VI centers. Please view our FLAS page for information on funding opportunities for language study, as well as listings of additional programs offered by non-Title VI institutions.

Sub-Saharan languages are offered through the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies

Arabic language instruction is offered through the Department of Asian Studies