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Want to Study Swahili? Acquire Arabic?


Want to study Swahili? Improve your Icelandic? If you answered sawa  or ja, respectively, Pitt's Less-Commonly-Taught Languages Center (LCTL) can help.

LCTL, part of the University’s linguistics department, offers courses in languages that lack dedicated departments at Pitt, including Arabic, Modern Greek, Persian (Farsi), Irish Gaelic, Icelandic, Swahili, Welsh, and many others. LCTL director Claude Mauk concentrates on a language spoken not in words but gestures – American Sign Language.

LCTL specializes in communicative language teaching, which simulates real-life language usage so students learn how to use and converse in foreign languages rather than just memorize grammar lessons and vocabulary. This creates an ideal environment for students seeking practical proficiency as well as scholars whose research requires them to learn less-commonly-taught languages (not to be confused with "less-common" languages. For example, an estimated 185 million people worldwide are native speakers of Bengali – not commonly taught outside Southern Asia – which is more than the total number of native speakers of French and German combined).

Pitt linguistics scholars study dialects, too, as well as the theoretical underpinnings of languages. Professor Scott Kiesling, for example, examines relationships between social identity and language. He's an expert on “Pittsburghese," the English dialect most prevalent in Western Pennsylvania. (Kiesling points out, for example, that the Pittsburghese term "redd up,” a synonym for cleaning up or getting organized, was borrowed from the Scots, reflecting the Scots-Irish heritage of the city's early settlers.)