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Language training

Language training is one of four key elements structuring the MPhil in African Studies programme. The other elements are the core course, the option courses, and the dissertation.

All MPhil in African Studies students are enrolled for Swahili Basic 1 at the University of Cambridge Language Centre, which is taught over 15 weeks during Michaelmas and Lent terms. You will receive one class (comprising two 50-minute lessons) per week in the Alison Richard Building, which you must supplement by an additional 2 hours per week of self-study. Swahili Basic 1 is a Cambridge University language programmes (CULP) course, which means that it is open to all members of the University, both staff and students. You will find yourself learning with a diverse group of individuals, many of whom are likely to be PhD students interested in learning Swahili for their doctoral research. Upon completing the course you will receive a Certificate of Proficiency awarded by the Language Centre, which is recorded on your MPhil degree transcript.

Should you wish to further your Swahili language learning during Easter term, all students have the option of enrolling for Swahili Basic 2. This non-compulsory component is taught semi-intensively, with two classes (each of two 50-minute lessons) per week and a recommended 4 hours per week of self-study. If you wish, you may continue your studies even further, by taking Swahili Intermediate 1. This course is taught intensively, with one class (comprising two 50-minute lessons) taught five days week for three weeks from mid-June through to early July.

Language training is a formal component of the MPhil in African Studies examination regulations, but the course director can grant exemption from Swahili Basic 1 to students who present a convincing academic case (with the support of their dissertation supervisor) to learn another language. Such students may apply to study for a Certificate of Proficiency in another of the eleven CULP languages or request to learn another African language by self-training, and register for a Certificate of Attendance at the Language Centre. Please note that places on CULP courses other than CULP Swahili cannot be guaranteed, but if your exemption from CULP Swahili is approved, the Centre of African Studies will provide a bursary to subsidise your language course costs.

Students registering for a Certificate of Attendance will be required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of language training, supported by the John Trim Centre for Independent Learning, which houses resources in over 150 languages. Where possible, the Centre of African Studies will liaise with the Language Centre to arrange language-training workshops with a specialist teacher. Alternatively, your language-training bursary may be used to subsidise your enrolment on a short course at the SOAS Language Centre. You will be expected to submit a portfolio of your language studies at the end of Lent term. Subject to this portfolio being assessed as satisfactory, you will be awarded a Certificate of Attendance.

All students must be awarded either a Certificate of Proficiency or a Certificate of Attendance in language training to meet the assessment requirements of the MPhil in African Studies.  However, language marks are not counted in the final degree result.

If you wish to apply for exemption from Swahili Basic 1, you must submit your request by email to no later than 30 September before term starts. Your request should state the language you wish to learn instead of Swahili and briefly outline an academic rationale. Exemption is granted for academic reasons only, which will normally be related to your planned dissertation research. Further details can be found here.