Kiswahili is an important export commodity which if properly promoted could bring in billions of shillings in revenue through foreigners coming into the country to learn how to speak and write it.
According to Principal of the MS-Training Centre for Development Cooperation, Dr Suma Kaare an average of 1,700 foreigners are taught Kiswahili at her centre every year, attracting over $500,000 (nearly 800m/-) in fees.
For the last 30 years, MS-TCDC, which is located in Usa River area, has developed extensive expertise in enabling expatriates to improve their language skills. “As a result, our training has gained a very strong reputation.”
She said the language is spoken by six countries in Africa, and in recent years, it has grown in popularity in countries as far as the US, China and other developed countries.
“In a year, we’ve been receiving more than 1,700 students from Africa and the rest of the world. Most of them come for short and long-term courses,” she said, adding that some of the students come from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and others from the rest of the world.
The centre has been receiving university students from the US and European countries, who attend Kiswahili classes at the centre.
“It is high time Tanzanians felt proud of their language, which is spoken by one billion people in Africa,” said the boss of the training centre, adding: “Kiswahili is an important business opportunity that needs to be explored.”
A new lab for Kiswahili is in the pipeline as the centre prepares itself to start offering a diploma course in Kiswahili.
Dr Suma decried of increase of visa fees for foreigners who are coming into the country, saying: “$500 is a lot of money, which discourages some of the foreigners wishing to visit the country.
I appeal to the government to reduce the amount, so that we encourage more people to come to Tanzania,” she said.
One of Germany’s PhD students at Kiel university Ulrike Doerr said: “I am lucky to be here learning Kiswahili, one of the widely spoken African languages.”
“I have been hearing about the language for years, but now I’m in class learning it,” she beamed.