The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Pitt’s Center for African Studies adds three new African languages

A+bulletin+board+outside+of+the+Less-Commonly-Taught+Languages+Center.
TPN File Image
A bulletin board outside of the Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center.

Beginning this semester, Pitt students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in two new African languages, with one more on the way in the spring.

At the beginning of the fall semester, Pitt’s Center for African Studies secured grant funding to finance instruction in two new African languages with the help of Pitt’s Global Studies Center for Wolof and Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center. This semester, the Niger-Congo languages of Wolof and Akan/Twi joined the list of languages that the center offers. Wolof is spoken across Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania, while Twi is a variant of the Akan language spoken in Ghana.

The new funding also helped create a new African language coordinator position, who will guide students in their language-learning endeavors and work to coordinate with the various schools within Pitt to make studying African languages more accessible.

Following these developments, the Center for African Studies further expanded its instruction. With this funding and the collaboration of other Pitt language institutes, the African studies department will add yet another new language to their curriculum next semester — the West African language Yoruba, commonly spoken in Nigeria.

Anna-Maria Karnes, an academic adviser for the Center for African Studies, said grants like the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language program made the Center’s dream of expanding its language curriculum a reality.

“We got a grant last year from the federal government to add an African language. Global Studies also got the grant, and so with that funding together, we were able to add two African languages,” Karnes said. “We just found out two weeks ago we also got the UISFL grant, and in that grant, we asked for funding for Yoruba. We did a survey, and an overwhelming number of people wanted us to add Yoruba because it’s one of the languages spoken in Nigeria, and we have a lot of Nigerian heritage students here at Pitt.”

Filipo Lubua, a faculty member in the Department of Linguistics and coordinator of Pitt’s African and African diasporic languages program, said he is pleased with the African Studies Center’s dedication to the study of African languages.

“I have been involved in African languages for more than 10 years now, since I was a grad student, through my masters and through my Ph.D. All along I wanted to see and to be a part of bringing African languages to campuses,” Lubua said. “The fact that we have these languages offered and we now have a program dedicated to Africa and African diasporic spoken languages, I think that’s a great thing. For a person like myself who has been involved in languages for years, I can feel nothing but good.”

A portrait of Filipo Lubua, the new African language coordinator. (Courtesy of Filipo Lubua)

Lubua said the pace of the Center for African Studies in adding new languages was commendable. 

“We actually introduced two more languages this semester and we’re going to introduce another one next semester,” Lubua said. “So we’re going to have a total of three languages introduced in the ‘23-’24 academic year. So that is really, really good. I really commend my university, my department and the Center for African Studies for making this a possibility.”

Karnes said one institutional struggle in promoting the study of African languages is expanding accessibility to students whose majors have less space for language learning.

“There is a barrier. With arts and science majors it’s easier for them to take a language. But engineering students, where a lot of heritage students are taking classes and majoring, it’s much harder for them to take a language,” Karnes said. “It’s also harder in pharmacy and other degrees on campus. So how do we create more access for these languages to be taught towards these populations that want to take the language and can’t because of the requirements in their majors? It’s hard.”

Karnes said the Center plans to offer numerous study abroad programs this summer to boost interest in experiencing the culture that comes with learning the languages.

“We’re launching six study abroad programs in Africa this summer, and they’re all different. We’re offering Pitt in Senegal, and students can do traditional medicine or French in Senegal,” Karnes said. “[There is] a culture course in Ghana, which is going to be on reproductive health and the performing arts. In Tanzania we’re offering our FLAS fellowship where students basically have a full ride to study Swahili.”

Yaa Kornne, a junior rehabilitation science major completing the African Studies certificate, said that the Center’s expansion creates more culturally enriching opportunities for students at Pitt.

“I think it’s awesome that they’re widening the languages being offered, especially since a lot of schools that are equal to Pitt in division one, high academics already offer these. So it’s good that Pitt is catching up and starting to provide these for their students,” Kornne said. “Especially for the many students who may be of African descent that didn’t grow up speaking their native language [and] can now have opportunities, or people who are just interested in Africa in general and want to visit these places.”

Inat Mulaw, a senior linguistics major who studied all four levels of Amharic with the Center and is now studying Swahili, said she admires the University’s measures to ensure these additions are a success.

“It’s great that they’ve added the African language coordinator position. It’s amazing that they are really taking the necessary steps, like adding this position, to really cultivate the African languages program,” Mulaw said. “Having Dr. Lubua, who teaches Swahili at Pitt, is also telling of how seriously they are taking this program, as he has a really great way of getting students immersed in language and culture.”

Lubua said studying these African languages is vital because it allows us to understand other cultures on a deeper level.

“Studying languages is so important. There’s nothing that’s going to get the world closer than knowing each other’s cultures and there’s no way you’re going to be able to understand another person’s culture if you don’t speak their language,” Lubua said. “Offering these languages actually makes sure that our students get to know the world, and that they get to be connected to a culture they have never lived. Languages help them travel the world without being there physically.”

About the Contributor
Gabriella Garvin, Senior Staff Writer
Gabriella is a junior economics and philosophy major with a minor in French and law, criminal justice and society. She loves to try making new recipes and read, and she will talk about Philly any chance she gets.