LCTL Partnership

A Mellon Grant for Less Commonly Taught Languages


Swahili Working Group Modules

The Swahili Working Group met for a two-day meeting in early 2017. One of the blessings and a point of some frustration that has arisen with this project is the unprecedented nature of this collaboration. With no precedent to show us the amount and the types of materials that should come out of a project like this, there were a lot of decisions to be made by both the MSU team ahead of the meeting and by the Swahili Working Group at the meeting. Before the Swahili Working Group Meeting, the MSU team decided on a minimum amount of materials that we expected to come out of the project. However, each LCTL has its own unique needs, and the Swahili Working Group truly shaped the direction of material development for the project.

After much discussion about the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, our Swahili experts narrowed down certain areas of proficiency they felt were particularly important to their students. In particular, they felt that there were not enough materials for advanced learners, and wanted to focus on learners in the third and fourth years of Swahili, ranging from Intermediate-Mid to Advanced on the ACTFL Scale. They also discussed different areas of East African culture on which they wanted to focus.

Out of these discussions came modules that will focus on a variety of aspects of East African culture and varying proficiency levels:

  1. Multi-Cultural Identities (Intermediate-Mid) – with a particular focus on preparation for students who will study abroad in East Africa
  2. *Family/Community and Traditions/Celebrations (Intermediate-High)
  3. *Politics/Societal Issues (Intermediate-High)
  4. Careers/Research and Technology (Advanced-Low)
  5. *Religion and Urban Legends (Advanced-Low)
  6. Sexuality and Gender Roles (Advanced-Mid)

This academic year (2017-2018), three of the units (indicated with a * above) will be pilot-tested in our core/affiliate partner sites. Based on feedback from instructors and students, the pilot-tested modules and final three modules will be refined. We anticipate releasing all of the materials from the Swahili Working Group to the public by the end of summer 2018!

Welcome to the blog for the LCTL Partnership!

The first months of the project have been both invigorating and challenging. The project started in earnest with a Kickoff Symposium in September 2016, where constituents of the Big Ten Academic Alliance came together to talk about two Mellon projects – one facilitated by Michigan State University and another from the University of Chicago.

Soon after that kickoff meeting, Swahili was chosen as the first language of focus for our project. We worked on getting commitments from core and affiliate partner universities for their participation. The engagement and interest from the participants was inspiring to see.

Despite our high hopes for a completely smooth start, creating a new initiative is not easy. It can be daunting to try to establish collaborative groups, forge partnerships, and create new methods of approaching old problems in an innovative way.


Some highlights:


Some challenges:


Our Principal Investigator, Dean Christopher Long, and two of our co-investigators, Susan Gass and Koen Van Gorp, wrote a commentary about the project in the latest issue of the journal Europe Now. Check it out for more highlights and challenges!