Learning an African language is both a business investment and a method to gain cultural understanding, according to history professor Oloruntoyin Falola.
According to an article published by Forbes Magazine, seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are located in Africa. Despite the rising economic status of these nations, only one out of the 33 languages UT offers originated in Africa — Yoruba, the predominant dialect spoken within Nigeria.
Falola, a Yoruba history professor, said understanding an African language would be a tremendous advantage in terms of business.
“You need to know the culture of your trading partners,” Falola said. “You need to know their customs and their habits. Very minimally, you need to make friends through greetings and conversations.”
Adding more African language courses would allow the University to be more representative of its African student population — among the highest in the nation— and its existing programs, Falola said.
“Additionally, the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies will require African languages for its program,” Falola said.
All students would benefit from these courses according to Nneoma Ajiwe, a public relations senior and African Student Organization president.
“First generation students who don’t know their own language would be able to gain more insight and become more in touch with their culture and what their parents know,” Ajiwe said. “For non-African students, these language courses can be used for educational purposes and to relate to African friends.”
Biochemistry freshman Kyler Moore said she will be enrolling in a French course next semester, but agrees UT should offer more African languages.
“I think I signed up for French because I was comfortable with it because I had taken it in high school,” Moore said. “I didn’t even look at other languages. I didn’t know there was only one African language offered. It would be amazing if UT did offer more African languages because people like me who are black African-American would love to take classes and learn more about our culture.”
As a starting point, Swahili and Zulu should be added to the language courses at UT, according to Falola.
“We are developing connections to South Africa, so learning Zulu is important,” Falola said. “The African Union has adopted Swahili as the official language. They are now expecting all Africans in the future to be able to speak Swahili, so we need to teach it.”