By Kevin Hong
Swahili, a language that is widely spoken in East Africa, is coming to Grinnell.
Last spring, two enthusiastic Swahili learners, Rebecca Rea-Holloway ’15 and Anthony Wenndt ’15 sparked the idea of forming an official group. They both have experiences in East Africa and plan to work in the region after graduation.
“We started thinking about it last semester,” Wenndt said. “We tried to do an ALSO [Alternate Language Study Option] language program, and we were going through the processes, but there did not appear to be enough interest on campus last semester for it to be an official group. So we decided it might be fun to bring our desire to learn Swahili to our campus through an extracurricular group, instead.”
The club will alternate between weekly meetings by having either a language lesson or an East African cultural event. For the lesson, the group has several different learning materials, but mostly it’s the Swahili textbook for Tanzanian peace volunteers.
“Right now, because half of the student instructors are actually learners themselves, we have a very collaborative learning environment,” Wenndt said.
The group is in the process of applying for funding from SGA. However, they have funding for a language tutor for two hours per week through the ALSO program.
“The budget is not huge, and it’s mostly for things like food,” said Isaac Chadri ’15, another one of the group leaders. “No one really cares if the club they join is not a course, so to get people come to a club from which they can learn something, you need to provide them with something, and food could be a big motivation.”
Fifty people signed up for the email list, but the group leaders expect the regular attendance to be between 10 and 15.
“We had about eight people on Monday, but it’s just our second week,” Rea-Holloway said. “We also have a language table on Monday at noon in the dining hall upstairs. Every meeting is open to everyone.”
Next week will be the group’s first cultural event, and it is going to be food-centered, along with East African music provided.
“We plan on cooking—we provide Tanzanian food, and I’ll cook my Kenyan food. For other meetings, we’ll bring cookies,” Chadri said.
The club meets on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. in JRC 226.