Less Commonly Taught Languages Program| Illinois


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See the links below for information regarding each language program.

For information on the Summer Institute for the Languages of the Muslim World (SILMW) see SILMW website

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Less Commonly Taught Languages Program

The Less-Commonly-Taught Languages (LCTL) Program is housed in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and offers instruction in Arabic, Hindi, Modern Greek, Persian, Swahili, Turkish and Wolof and supports communicative proficiency-based language teaching as a way for our students to obtain the most from their language-learning experiences. We emphasize the acquisition of grammar and vocabulary as necessary tools for spontaneous, creative, and meaningful communication and as a part of the four skills:reading, writing, listening and speaking. In the classroom, we encourage conversation, small-group problem solving, and other tasks that simulate real-life uses of language. Outside the classroom, we offer extra-curricular activities like conversation tables, films series, social hours, potlucks, picnics in order to practice the target language by learning about the culture where it is spoken.


Arabic constitutes a kind of bridge between Africa and Asia: it is spoken by 208 million people from Morocco to southern Iran and is one of the official languages of the United Nations. It is also the sacred language of Islam, one of the major world religions, and as such is known all over the world, including Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh, the countries with the largest Muslim populations. Classical Arabic is also the language of an impressive literary tradition and served as the vehicle through which the intellectual achievements of ancient Greece and India were preserved and transmitted to pre-modern Europe. Find out about doing a minor in Arabic Studies and visit the Arabic program website for more information.


Bangla (also knowns as Bengali) is the 7th most spoken language in the world with about 200 million speakers in India and Bangladesh. Both Hindus and Muslims consider it a critical part of their linguistic and cultural heritage. We currently offer Elementary Bangla.The aim of this course is to help students acquire all the major language skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing in Bangla (at the Elementary/Beginning level). The structure and conversations taught in this course will be presented in a variety of authentic contexts of Bangla spoken in India and in Bangladesh. Training in spoken Bangla will emphasize speaking and listening at normal speed with near-native pronunciation and intonation. For more information contact Dr. Mithilesh Mishra.


Modern Hindi is one of the most widely used means of communication in South Asia, an area that is home to one quarter of the world's population. Hindi is spoken or understood by 383 million of the nearly one billion inhabitants of India and serves as one of the two official link languages of the Republic of India. It has a rich tradition in literature as well. Find out about doing a minor in Hindi and visit the Hindi Program website for more information. Our online course for advanced Hindi was recently featured in LAS news! For more information contact Dr. Mithilesh Mishra.

Modern Greek

Greek forms an independent branch of the Indo-European languages. Given its long history, Greek has provided a large part of the vocabulary in the sciences as well as the medical and legal fields. Today, Standard Modern Greek is spoken as an official language in Greece and Cyprus. Because of the membership of Greece and Cyprus in the European Union, Greek is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union. Modern Greek is spoken natively by about 14-17 million people in Greece and Cyprus as well as in Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Southern Italy, Israel, and Egypt. It is also spoken by large diasporic communities in North and South America and Australia, while its popularity as a foreign language is rising especially in Europe and the Balkans. For more information, email moderngreek@illinois.edu or see the Modern Greek Program web site.


Modern Persian (or Farsi) is the major language of Iran and a prominent language in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It has official-language status in all three countries. There are nearly 130 million speakers of Persian worldwide. With a high degree of continuity from the rich culture of Great Persia, Modern Persian persists as a sweet language of love, poetry, and literature that spans over two and a half millennia. In addition to being the primary language of Zoroastrianism and Baha’ism, it is considered by some Shi’ites to be the second language of Islam.

The Persian language is gaining popularity in the United States because of the need to develop new channels of communication and dialogue between the United States and Iran as well as because of the growing Iranian diasporic community within the United States since the Iranian Revolution. Hence, knowledge of Persian not only benefits one’s understanding of Persian history, art, culture, and its unique literature, but of the present political and socio-economic realities of Iran. Our Persian program is based on the latest communicative and task-based language teaching methodology in three levels for beginners to advanced learners. For more information contact afeiz@illinois.edu. To learn more visit the Persian website and our Facebook page (Persian Studies at UIUC).


Swahili is spoken and understood by approximately 46 million people in large parts of East Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and parts of Somalia and the Congo. One of the most widely spoken and studied languages in Sub-Saharan Africa, it has a rich literary tradition that goes as far back as the 11th century.

Swahili gives access not only to a rich social and political culture, but also to a wide economic market in Central and Eastern Africa and beyond. Swahili is (with Arabic) one of the only two African languages adopted as official languages of the African Union, the successor to the Organization of African Unity. For individuals interested in comparative language contact and Islamic studies in Eastern Africa, Swahili is an ideal Bantu language for study, instantiating long historical contact with Arabic and serving as the language of Islam in the region. Learn about doing an undergradute minor in Sub-Saharan African Languages and see the Swahili Program website for more information.


Turkish was the language of the Ottoman Empire, a superpower in the world between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries which ruled over much of Eastern Europe, the Near East, and the Mediterranean rim. Modern day Turkey is a geographical bridge between the continents of Asia and Europe, linked by the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. It has relationships with the European Union and is involved in international organizations such as NATO, while maintaining friendly ties with neighboring countries.

Turkish is one of the most important investment languages for people interested in the EU, Middle Eastern studies, world history, international relations, politics, economics, music, archeology, architecture, and tourism. It is a language that is gaining popularity as a foreign language in the United States and in other parts of the world, because of the growing geo-political role that Turkey now plays in global relations. Many current government and educational jobs concerning Europe, the Middle East and Asia favor those with proficiency in Turkish. Turkish certainly represents a major-access language to numerous opportunities in the regions where it is spoken. For more information visit the Turkish Program website or contact Ayse Ozcan.


Urdu is a thriving Indo-European language spoken by over 100 million people around the world. It is the national language of Pakistan and an official language in the state of Jammu-Kashmir, India. There are also millions of Urdu speakers in communities across Europe, North America and Australia. There are over a million Urdu speakers in the U.S. alone.

Urdu has been designated as a language critical to U.S. national security and knowledge of Urdu can assist in obtaining employment in the State Department. Urdu is also a language of poetry and many beautiful "ghazals" are written in Urdu. Because Urdu is written in the Perso-Arabic script and is closely related to Hindi it can assist in the learning of other languages as well. For more information contact Dr. Mithilesh Mishra.


Uzbek is a Turkic language spoken primarily in the Republic of Uzbekistan. Uzbeks are the largest ethnic group in post-Soviet Central Asia, and the Uzbek langauge is closely related to other Turkic languages in the region, including Uighur. Because Uzbekistan is a post-Soviet, Muslim nation located along the Silk Road, both its language and culture have been affected by diverse nations and peoples. As a result, Uzbek borrows extensively from Russian, Arabic and Persian.

Uzbek is considered a Critical Language by many U.S. Government agencies, so knowledge of Uzbek can assist in pursuing a career as a Foreign Service Officer or FBI Linguist. Additionally, the Fulbright, Boren and Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships provide students who are U.S. citizens with funding to travel to Uzbekistan for continued language learning or research. Uzbek is an agglutinative language, which means that it uses many suffixes. However, it is extremely grammatically regular: fore example, it has absolutely no irregular verbs! It's also easier to learn than some other Turkic languages becaues it doesn't havevowel harmony.

Learning Uzbek is a unique opportunity, offered at only 12 other Universities in the U.S. You can expect a small and interactive class. The class meets three times a week and is three credit hours. This class satisfies non-Western language requirements. Meeting times will be determined by student and instructor availability. Register through UIUC Enterprise Application/Self-Service.Uzbek is found under the subject heading Linguistics (LING), under the class "LING 404: Tutorials in Non-Western Lang". Under this course you'll find multiple options. Select UZB (32052), taught by Lydia Catedral.To learn more about the Uzbek tutorial offered by LCTL please contact Lydia Catedral and Eman Saadah.


Wolof is spoken by over 80% of the population of Senegal and is also spoken in The Gambia and Mauritania. It is the language of the Wolof people and is one of the principal languages of Africa. Wolof has no tone and does not conjugate its verbs. It is written in Latin script. Although French is the official language, Wolof is spoken much more widely and is the language of business, popular culture and everyday life. Studying Wolof also opens up opportunities to engage with the arts in West Africa. Dak'Art (photo below) is one of the largest art shows of contemporary African art and is hosted in Senegal. Senegal is also the home of some of the giants of African literary and cinematographic art, including greats such as Sembene Ousmane.

At UIUC we offer Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Wolof classes.
FLAS Fellowships are available for studying Wolof and Wolof can be the
language focus of a minor in Sub-Saharan African languages. Already taking Wolof? Learn about doing an undergradute minor in Sub-Saharan African Languages.