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Swahili in Butiama, Tanzania

After four weeks in Edinburgh comes the chance to travel to Tanzania to continue your rapid progression in one of the most stunning and conducive environments possible. Students will travel together to Butiama, a tranquil and beautiful village close to Lake Victoria in north-west Tanzania. Butiama is the home village of the first president of independent Tanzania, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Heading to Butiama in convoy through the Serengeti , photo: A. R. Methven

While in Butiama, students will have the opportunity to stay in Nyerere’s home, an impressive feat of architecture built high into a rock face overlooking the surrounding area. The house once welcomed famous leaders, such as Jomo Kenyatta and Nelson Mandela, and still contains Mwalimu’s personal library, which holds an impressive array of books annotated in his own hand. In addition to accommodation at Nyerere’s home, the main lectures will take also place in Mwalimu’s main office, with other lessons taking place in the nearby museum.

A view of the valley from the Mwitongo (Butiama) accommodation,  photo: A. R. Methven

Outside of the daily lessons students will have a considerable amount of freedom to get to know the village and its residents. There will also be a number of organised daily activities aimed at facilitating integration with the local community and discovering interesting elements of Tanzanian and Zanaki (the local ethnic group) culture. These activities will include local hikes (with incredible views), visits to primary and secondary schools, mixed games of volleyball and soccer, lessons in Tanzanian dancing and drumming, clay pot making and a visit to a local “witchdoctor”. At weekends, students will also have the chance to travel further afield, and will visit the stunning Rubondo Island National Park to walk within touching distance of elephants, giraffes and hippos, as well as the world famous Serengeti National Park, where students will have a good chance of seeing the famous “Big Five”.

Throughout the trip, all food will be provided by local on-site cooks who will prepare a mixture of Tanzanian and international dishes. To help students practice food vocabulary in Swahili, get to know the local traders and brush up on their haggling skills, however, a small group will be tasked daily to purchase the ingredients for the evening meal on a rotational basis. In addition, on two nights a week the local chefs will teach groups how to cook a variety of local dishes, from chapati to nyama choma!

The Swahili (Beginners) B course in Tanzania will equip students with a further 500 items of vocabulary and several advanced items of vocabulary. Moreover, it will allow students to become valuable members of a small Tanzanian community, understand local issues and cultures and experience the use of Swahili in its natural environment. Following the completion of both courses, students will be equipped with a pre-intermediate knowledge of everyday Swahili language, first hand experience of living in a Swahili-speaking environment and, hopefully, a thirst to return to Tanzania again and again in the years to come.

More photos of Butiama by A.R. Methven 

Stephen Kaye, Swahili Tutor Summer School University of Edinburgh