Friday, September 4, 2020

Teaching African Americans How to Speak Swahili

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Nationwide -- In recent years, Swahili has emerged as a leading language that people should take note of. With an estimated 150 million speakers worldwide, it is the official language of Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is widely spoken in Uganda and more narrowly spoken in Burundi, Rwanda, North Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi.

Several international media outlets like BBC and The Voice of America offer programming in Swahili. In the African Union, Swahili is one of the working languages. In 2019, the Southern African Development Community adopted Kiswahili as its fourth official language. At the beginning of 2020, South Africa legalized Swahili's teaching in South African schools as an optional subject with Namibia to follow suit in 2021.

Shili Joseph Somi, a Tanzanian native, who has been in the U.S. for several years, has watched Swahili's explosive growth and evolution into a dominant language. While people globally have caught hold of the opportunities in learning Swahili, Somi believes that the African American demographic has mainly been left out of the conversations concerning the possibilities.

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"The continent of Africa's business is booming," he shared. "A lot of entrepreneurs are going to invest in Africa, so learning Swahili for them is going to be very advantageous. We need to accept our culture and try to learn it," Somi said, enabling people to position themselves to work on diplomatic missions, international organizations, and NGOs in Swahili-speaking countries.

With many different dialects, Swahili is considered an incredibly fluid language, being markedly one of the easiest of African dialects.

In the United States, many have been introduced to the language through the likes of The Lion King in its most notable song Hakuna Matata, and through words like Safari (which means journey), and Siri (which means secret).

At the rate Swahili is spreading, Somi believes that it could become the primary language for the entire continent of Africa.

To encourage and ensure that people are learning Swahili properly, Somi created a teaching platform called Swahili Prime. This website allows novice speakers to explore East African culture while learning the Swahili language. "This is all done through go-at-your-own-pace, video-based learning," Somi shared. "Some websites just teach Swahili but not the proper version," he said.

In the states, Somi could see that people were enthusiastic about learning Swahili, estimating that about 100 universities in the U.S. offer Swahili courses.

Visiting the Swahili Prime platform will learn the language through cooking, gospel songs, music, and movies. Also, students will find Swahili for English speakers, Swahili for Chinese speakers, Swahili for French and Arabic speakers. Soon, Somi will be adding Swahili for Tourists to the course catalog sharing, "This will help people who are [traveling] to East Africa to learn the language before they go there," he shared.

All of Somi's instructors have degrees in Communications, or the Swahili language and are certified by the National Swahili Council in Tanzania. Gilbert Peter, a Tanzanian multilingual instructor for Swahili Prime, has been with the company for approximately six months, sharing that he genuinely enjoys his work. "[As a Tanzanian], this [work] is important for me because I want to introduce, explore, announce, and spread Tanzanian culture." With his background, experience, and understanding of the Swahili language, Peter has been able to teach impactful lessons that make learning the language fun and engaging. "The comments from the platform have been really good. People are enjoying the lessons," he shared.

For those new to the website, they will find that Swahili Prime offers 17 engaging courses, with one course alone containing up to 20 lessons. Free of memberships or contracts, Swahili Prime's classes are listed at an affordable price, ranging from $10-$15 each.

Sway Steward; a Kenyan American says she's looking forward to using the Swahili Prime. "I wish I had learned Swahili from my mom. I moved to America from Kenya as an infant, and my mom did her best to teach me the languages from our home, but it was hard for her to do this, given that all of my schooling and interactions were in English. Now that I'm a mother, my husband, who is Black African American, and I hope to take time to learn Swahili as a family. We believe it will bring us closer together and help us feel more connected to our African ancestry. Plus, we want to visit my family in Kenya, and knowing the language will help! Swahili Prime looks to be a great place to begin our learning."

To get started on your first lesson, visit today and begin your first lesson for free.

For press inquiries, contact Shili Joseph Somi at 816-679-9937 or

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Posted by community events coordinator, Nzinga Lonstein Austin, is a prolific blogger who writes on the entertainment industry and issues for people with developmental and physical challenges.

She is presently in high school looking to have a career in video, film, and media. You can see more of her entertainment writing on Lonstein Movies.

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