SOAS University of London

SOAS Language Centre

Somali at SOAS Language Centre

Somali is from the Afroasiatic language family and belongs to the Cushitic branch.  Somali is the best documented language within the Cushitic branch, with academic studies of it dating back to the late 19th century. Somali is the most widely spoken Cushitic language after Oromo, a language of Southern Ethiopia to which it is adjacent and with which it shares considerable cultural influences.   

Somali is spoken in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya but, following the start of the civil war in the early 1990s, there has been a steady increase of Somali-speakers in many other parts of the Middle East, North America and Europe. There are around 20 million speakers of Somali worldwide, around half of whom are within Somalia and Somaliland, where it is spoken by virtually all. In Djibouti, the majority of the population speaks Somali.

Somali is a complex language, both in its sound system and in its grammatical structure. The variety within the pronunciation of its vowels makes Somali a rather musical language and one in which pitch accent determines the meaning of a word as, for example, ínan (‘boy’) and inán (‘girl’). Somali has borrowed a number of loanwords, mainly from Arabic, the language most strongly associated with Islam and with which a large number of Somalis are bilingual.

SOAS Language Centre can offer the following course in Somali:

Somali 1

Somali 1 includes Beginners-level study and Elementary-level study. The number of contact hours is twice what is customary for SOAS Language Centre short courses and all participants are set homework on a regular basis. The course permits learners to acquire a good basic grasp of the language within six months.

Please note that the course is taught as part of the BA degree in African Studies. Language Centre students can register for the first and second terms of the academic year but do not receive accreditation. This means that they attend classes in the first two terms only and are not registered to sit for examination in the third term (The section relating to assessments does not apply to Language Centre students).

Related Information:

Back to the Language Centre Homepage