Two women singing at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Kigali


The University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been considered a leader in the field of foreign language education. Recently, placed UW-Madison first among public institutions on its list of “The 10 Most Innovative Colleges for Foreign Language Study.”

“Africa invented language.”

Ali Mazrui, Kenyan scholar

The Department of African Cultural Studies is home to one of the oldest African languages programs in the United States, and has offered many languages over the last fifty years. Currently, we regularly offer four languages: Arabic, Swahili, Wolof, and Yoruba.

In addition, we offer monitored self-instructional opportunities for graduate students through two courses, Theories and Methods of Learning a Less Commonly Taught Language and Directed Study of a Less Commonly Taught Language.  Through these courses, students can study any African language not offered in a typical classroom setting.

Every spring we host a festival through which our students showcase their knowledge of African languages, literatures, and cultures.

If you have prior experience with an African language, please contact Toni Landis ( for enrollment guidance.

Our Languages

While learning their chosen language, our students create projects to showcase it and their skills. Self-directed language learners in Dr. Thompson’s courses create websites with language-learning resources for the languages they are working on, review books related to language learning, and create videos with tips for self-instructional language learners.

See what our students are doing!