Swahili is a Bantu language that has its origins in the East Coast of Africa. It is linguistically related to languages like Pokomo, Ilwana, Digo and Giriama which are spoken in the Coastal region of Kenya. Swahili is the national language of Kenya and Tanzania. It is also spoken in East and Central Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Malawi and Mozambique in Africa. Currently, Swahili is spoken by 150 million in the world.

Swahili is very important for anyone wishing to travel and do research in East and Central Africa in that it provides a window to East African Culture. Many students who have taken Swahili as a foreign language have found it useful in volunteer work and in the African job market. In addition to St. Lawrence University, Swahili is taught in over a hundred institutions in the US alone.  Among these are Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton and many other well-known colleges and universities. Swahili is also taught in Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Poland, Mexico, Russia, Japan, China, India, Australia, to name just a few.

 At St. Lawrence University, the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures offers Elementary Swahili, Intermediate and Advanced Swahili Classes. Students find it a very easy language to learn.  In just a few weeks of classes, they are able to sing songs, dance, talk to each other and tell stories in Swahili. Those who learn Swahili before participating in the Kenya semester abroad program have a great advantage; because they are able to communicate with Kenyans they gain a greater understanding of Kenya’s people and culture.