Our Languages

The following is a blog of languages regularly offered through the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures.

Akan (Twi) at Rutgers

Akan refers to the language of the Akan ethnic group of Ghana. It is also spoken in the central and eastern part of Cote d’Ivoire. Akan comprises three main mutually intelligible dialects: Fante, Asante Twi and Akwapim Twi. Asante Twi is the widely used.  Akan is the most widely spoken and used indigenous language in Ghana. About 44%, of Ghana’s population of about 22 million, speak Akan as first language. However, about 80% of Ghanaians speak Akan as a first and second language. It is officially recognized for literacy, at least at the lower primary (Primary 1-3) level, and studied at university as a bachelor or masters program. It is the most important indigenous language of Ghana. It is the language of the Western, Central, Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo regions, and the northern portion of the Volta region of Ghana. A form of Akan is also spoken in South America, notably Suriname and Jamaica. The language came to these places through the slave trade. Akan names and folktales are still used in these countries. With the present state of technology, one can listen to live radio broadcasts in Akan from numerous radio stations from ghanaweb.com. Akan is studied in major universities in the United States, including Ohio University, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin, Harvard University, Boston University, Indiana University, Michigan University, and The University of Florida. It has been a regular African language of study in the annual Summer Cooperative African Languages Institute (SCALI) program.

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Arabic at Rutgers

arabicArabic is the world’s fifth most widely-spoken language, with over two hundred million native speakers and is the sacred language of approximately one billion Muslims.  The United Nations adopted Arabic as one of its six official languages in 1974.  It is the national language of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

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Hebrew at Rutgers

hebrewHebrew, the language of the scriptures venerated by both Jews and Christians, and one of the official languages of the State of Israel, is a Semitic language closely related to Aramaic and Arabic. It was originally the language of the Israelite tribes who, roughly at the beginning of the first millennium BCE, established a united kingdom in the area today occupied by the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories. The first inscriptions in Hebrew belong to the same period. Hebrew was originally written in a form of the Phoenician script, but under Achaemenid rule (576-330 BCE) it came to be written in the Aramaic script, in which the Hebrew Bible was later redacted and which continued to be associated with Hebrew and Jewish languages until the present day, apart from a brief revival of the original Palaeo-Hebrew script under the Maccabees (164 BCE to 63 BCE). The Samaritans, a religious community closely related to the Jews, also preserves their own version of the Hebrew Bible in a form of the original script.

Read more: Hebrew at Rutgers

Hindi at Rutgers

hindiWith some 700 million native speakers, Hindi is one of the two official languages of communication in India, one of the twenty-two scheduled languages of the Indian constitution, and the second most widely-spoken language in the world. Hindi is the predominant language of Northern India (in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Andman-Nikobaar) and is taught as a second language in all other Indian states. Outside of India, Hindi speakers can be found in the USA, UK, Canada, Fiji, Guyana, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen and many more countries where Indians have made their homes.

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Swahili at Rutgers

swahiliCalled Kiswahili by its speakers, Swahili is a member of the Bantu group of languages, and is the most widely studied sub-Saharan African language in the USA, Europe, Asia and many other countries within Africa. It is estimated to be one of the ten most widely spoken languages of the world.  Spoken along the coast of East Africa for more than a millennium, it has now established itself as an important lingua franca throughout Tanzania, Kenya and the Comoros, and in parts of Somalia, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi and Zambia. Swahili is also the national language of Kenya, Tanzania and, to a lesser extent, Uganda.

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Turkish at Rutgers

turkishSpoken by over 63 million people worldwide, Turkish is the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages, which also include Azerbaijani, Türkmen, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kirghiz, and Uygur, spoken across a vast area of Asia ranging from the Caucasus Mountains to the Western part of China.  It is the native language of 90 percent of the inhabitants of Turkey, and a substantial minority in Cyprus, with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and other parts of Eastern Europe. Turkish is also spoken by several million immigrants in Western Europe, particularly in Germany.

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Urdu at Rutgers

urduThe following information is quoted from Omniglot:

Urdu is an indo-aryan language with about 104 million speakers, including those who speak it as a second language. It is the national language of pakistan and is closely related to and mutually intelligible with hindi, though a lot of urdu vocabulary comes from persian and arabic, while hindi contains more vocabulary from sanskrit. Linguists consider standard urdu and standard hindi to be different formal registers both derived from the khari boli dialect, which is also known as hindustani. At an informal spoken level there are few significant differences between urdu and hindi and they could be considered varieties a single language.


Read more: Urdu at Rutgers