IsiZulu at UCLA

Rationale for Learning IsiZulu at UCLA

There are many reasons why learning IsiZulu and acquiring a global understanding of South Africa is of utmost importance. First, the peaceful transformation of South Africa from racist, apartheid society has global implications in terms of international peace and stability and also in terms of global economic trade. During the apartheid era many North American companies severed their ties with South Africa. The independence of South Africa in 1994 brought about the lifting of the sanctions, resulting in a growing interest in the country by business people, including North Americans who today invest millions of dollars in South Africa. An example of this growing interest can be seen in coalitions such as South Africa- U.S Business Forum, which is meant to increase business between these two countries. That this coalition and many others like it flourishes manifests itself in the millions of North American businessmen who fly to and back from South Africa everyday. Undoubtedly, many of these business people do their business with non-whites, the majority of whom converse in IsiZulu. It is with this idea in mind that learning IsiZulu by American people who have interest in South Africa becomes crucial.

Secondly, UCLA offers the Study Abroad programs in South Africa, specifically with the University of Natal in Durban and with the University of Cape Town. Both universities are situated in the most historical and scenic cities of South Africa. Over the years this program has drawn enthusiastic American students who find themselves attached to South Africa, sometimes to an extent of wanting to reside there indefinitely. Besides the beauty, these two universities also meet international standards of education, which makes North American students feel comfortable that they are receiving quality education. At present UCLA is working on forging links with the University of Durban-Westville’s School of Languages and Literature.

Another important factor is that prior to the independence of South Africa, Peace Corps opportunities were not available in the country. It is only very recent that individuals who would like to go to South Africa on Peace Corps were able to do so. There is a high probability that knowing IsiZulu would put these Peace Corps volunteers at an advantage of communicating with South Africans, whether they are in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Northern Cape, or in any province in South Africa. Some missionaries who have done work in South Africa attest to the significance of knowing IsiZulu in a South African context. Included in the category of people who have found the knowledge of IsiZulu in South Africa to be profound are students who have been to different regions of this country to conduct research. These students attest to the fact that even a mere greeting in IsiZulu made a difference to how they were viewed and accepted in South Africa.

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IsiZulu Classes at UCLA

Students and Prof. Sosibo in class at UCLA

UCLA offers three levels of IsiZulu, Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced Zulu. The length of each course is three quarters, beginning in the fall and ending in the spring. In order to master the language better, students are encouraged to complete at least three years of IsiZulu. They can minimize the time by attending the Study Abroad Program that is sponsored by Yale University and is offered at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, or by attending the Summer Cooperative African Language Institute (SCALI) program that is offered by the universities here in the US.

During the course of the year the students learn the language and culture of the Zulu people. Students also learn to cook Zulu meals under the guidance of the IsiZulu instructor. They also watch videos that teach them about Zulu culture. Twice a year the students mingle with South Africans at the instructor’s home and hear the language in an informal atmosphere outside the classroom over a dinner of Zulu cuisine. Sometimes the instructor invites Zulu-speaking guest lecturers to class. During the year 1999-2000, three guests, Mr. Sduduzo Kunene, Mr. Ben Mazibuko, and Mr. Joseph Shabalala (the leader of the Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and his wife, Nelly, visited the IsiZulu classes.

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