50 years of African languages at UF

August 15, 2018
Alisson Clark
photographer: Nicole Yucht
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Center for African Studies

On a sunny day on the Plaza of the Americas, Professor Kole Odutola walks between groups of students handing out slips of paper inviting them to take YOR 1130, his beginning Yorùbá class. The class is five days a week, five credits, and it's not easy. But Odutola, who has been teaching at the University of Florida since 2006, promises prospective students that they'll learn more than words and phrases while studying Yorùbá. 

"It's a class where you learn how to learn,” he says. “That's one thing that school doesn't teach you — how do you learn? How do you remember things? How do you organize what you learn? That's one of the things Yorùbá is good for."

Yorùbá — spoken by 40 million people in Nigeria, its neighboring countries and the diaspora — is one of several African languages offered at UF. The university's Program in African Languages began with Swahili more than 50 years ago and has been adding languages since. UF also hosts the African Flagship Languages Initiative Domestic Intensive Summer Program, which brings graduate and undergraduate students from around the country to Gainesville to learn Akan, French, Hausa, Portuguese, Swahili, Wolof, Yoruba and Zulu from native speakers.

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