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Archive for Monday, October 24, 1994

NOT JUST ANOTHER LANGUAGE CLASS

October 24, 1994

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A KU professor is trying to generate interest in a widely spoken African language and culture known to few Americans.

Sannu! Ka ji harshen Hausa?

The language is African but it's not Swahili. It's spoken by three to four times as many people as the relatively well-known East African tongue.

Does the name Hausa ring a bell?

If so, congratulations, you've heard of a language spoken by 60 million to 80 million people, including a group of Kansas University students who meet regularly to practice.

In addition to the group, for the first time, two KU students recently spent two months in a Hausa community in Nigeria as part of a Fulbright program.

"Hausa has been here for a while, but with the Hausa club and the study program, we're hoping to build on it," said Beverly Mack, assistant professor of African and African-American studies who teaches the language.

But Hausa is more than a language, said Mack and students who spent time in Nigeria. The word is used to describe a culture heavily influenced by Islam that dominates parts of West Africa.

In addition, it has it's very own symbol, similar to a diamond interlocked by an "x."

Two KU students who participated in the Fulbright program lived in a Hausa city -- Kano, Nigeria -- from mid-June to mid-August. The city of about 2 million is in the north-central part of the country.

"Kano is to Nigeria what Mecca is to Saudi Arabia," said Sandy Leffler, a Lawrence resident who stayed there.

"It's predominately Muslim, conservative," she said. "It's not just a Sunday thing."

Leffler and Rebecca Alexander, a graduate student in linguistics, described their stay as interesting.

They lived in a building that had been used as a hospital and spent their days studying, sightseeing and meeting people.

"It was meeting the people that I enjoyed the most," Alexander said.

"They're so touched when you try to speak Hausa," Leffler said.

Mack said the Fulbright program offers a unique opportunity for students to experience a different culture.

KU already offers a Hausa language course.

A five-week course in Hausa culture will be offered next year for anyone interested in African cultures, Mack said.

The KU Hausa club meets from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays in the main cafeteria on the third floor of the Kansas Union.

The meetings are open to anyone interested.

For more information, call Mack at 864-3450.

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