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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Key facts

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Our strengths

We have unrivalled expertise in the languages of Africa, covering Swahili, Somali, Amharic, Zulu, Hausa, and Yorùbá. In our department you can study literature in English and in African languages, African film and philosophy.

Facts and figures

  • SOAS is the only university in the UK where you can learn a major sub-Saharan language (eg Hausa or Swahili), combined with more general (African) culture/language studies as part of a BA degree.
  • NSS 2013 - 91% Teach 89% Overall 85% Learning Resources
  • NSS 2013 – Ranked 1st in the UK
  • 21st in the Guardian 2015 Guide (Languages and Linguistics combined)
  • SOAS joining the global elite for Modern Languages in the recent QS World University Rankings by Subject, where it has been ranked sixth in the UK and 32nd internationally.
  • Home to the Journal of African Cultural Studies

Our Associate Head of Department says:

Alena Rettova

We invite you to join us in the study of the languages and cultures of Africa. Our distinctive focus on language-based scholarship enables us to engage with African literature, film, and philosophy through the words of Africans in their own languages. We also cover African literature, philosophy, and film in English. Our students gain a wide understanding and new perspectives on the diverse cultures of Africa. Welcome! Karibuni sana! Soo dhowaada!

Dr Alena Rettová


Staff are engaged in their own research and publish extensively, and also collectively edit the Journal of African Cultural Studies, which publishes groundbreaking and world-class research. Current staff research areas include orality and broadcast cultures in Africa; African language metrics and traditional poetry; African language dictionaries and reference grammar; Afrophone philosophy; contemporary African literature in English; travel writing and diaspora studies; and African film, video and film festivals. Teaching and research go hand-in-hand, and with around 40% of our students registered for postgraduate degrees, we encourage close links between staff and student research.