Language Programs in Tanzania

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A Guide to Language Programs in Tanzania

Imagine a place where giant elephants roam, giraffes peek their long necks out of baobab trees, and birds of every size, shape, and color soar overhead. A place where you can lounge on sandy beaches, hike through snow-capped mountains, or make friends as you wander streets bursting with color, all while practicing a brand new language. Tanzania, located in East Africa, has countless language programs throughout the country, which are most commonly focused on Swahili language learning. Dive into the friendly culture, slow down, and explore Tanzania as you embrace a foreign language, rafiki!


Whether you want to balance your language studies with getting lost in an exciting new city, exploring some of the country’s tallest mountains, or relaxing beachside, you can find it all in Tanzania. There are many language programs throughout Tanzania, whether you are looking to study in a Tanzanian home or at a local language school. No matter where you choose to learn a language in Tanzania, there is no doubt you will experience a full immersion into African culture.

Arusha is arguably the most popular location for language study in Tanzania. Located near the foot of Mount Meru, this big and busy city is complemented by lush green landscapes and a year-round temperate climate due to the altitude. Known as the “safari capital” of northern Tanzania, students can supplement their language studies in Arusha with a true African safari experience. Practice your Swahili with local tour guides as you spend your weekends beside roaming lions or on a boat ride through bathing hippos and crocodiles. 

For those looking for a more low-key city atmosphere, try a language program in Moshi, the capital of the densely populated Kilimanjaro region that is located at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano and the highest freestanding mountain in all of Africa. Clean and laidback, Moshi is the perfect place to call home if you want to explore the northern part of the country. Get your caffeine fix while visiting some of the country’s major coffee plantations or join the other adrenaline junkies in their treks up the mountain, after all, most visitors in Moshi are either preparing for or recovering from the massive climb.

Zanzibar is the perfect location for language study in Tanzania if you are looking for a Swahili island adventure. Located off the coast of Tanzania, the island is full of contrasts, with medieval streets at the island’s center in Stone Town, coral beaches on the coast, and primeval forests filled with rare wildlife in the South. Whether you are wandering along mango-lined streets leading to pristine beaches, trekking through the jungle in search of the rare red colobus monkey, or feasting on coconut crab (the largest crab in the world!) at a local restaurant, you will be sure to find magic in Zanzibar as the Swahili language rings in your ears.

Language Programs in Tanzania

An old saying claims that Swahili was born in Tanzania, got sick in Kenya, died in Uganda, and was buried in the Congo. While different dialects are spoken throughout Africa, Tanzanians are incredibly proud of their Swahili language. Over 120 languages are spoken throughout the country, but most language students who come to Tanzania choose to study Swahili because there is no better place in Africa to learn it.

Whether you are a beginner or an expert, looking for one-on-one classes or university courses, you will undoubtedly find a language program in Tanzania to suit your needs. The most popular type of language courses in Tanzania involve full immersion into Swahili culture. Language students of all levels can choose to stay with a local host family, becoming a guest in the home of their own personal teacher. What better way to learn the language than to experience the culture and language firsthand? Students will be able to practice their new skills in a one-on-one setting, chatting over breakfast or on a family outing, as well as during their free time as they explore the area on their own.

Others head over to enroll in classes at language schools in Tanzania. Classes at language schools range in level, length, and intensity. Depending on your wants and needs, you’ll have the choice of enrolling in language courses for 30, 45, or 60 hours over the course of two to four weeks. One-week language courses in Tanzania are also available at any level for those with less time. Language schools in Tanzania typically offer classes in small groups as well as one-on-one with a private teacher.

Most language courses in Tanzania offer the option to practice your language skills alongside a volunteer placement. So language learners can study Swahili while working on literacy projects, assisting in medical clinics, or helping park rangers track and monitor endangered species. This option is perfect for those who want to make a difference in the community, practice their language skills with locals, and mix inspiration with a bit of adventure.

Costs & Affordability

The cost of language courses in Tanzania depends on the type of program, length of stay, and services included. Some language programs in Tanzania charge an enrollment fee, while others charge weekly. Weekly fees can start as low as $50 per week for small, hour-long classes each day, but prices increase with intensity and length. Homestays that provide accommodation, daily meals, and weekly excursions, will be more expensive, and if you add a volunteer placement on top of it, you could be spending several hundred dollars.

Despite the program fees and flights, on-the-ground costs in Tanzania are extremely affordable. Take a bodobodo (motorcycle taxi) anywhere from village to city for less than 50 cents. Keep hydrated with bottled water or stock up on produce from local markets for only a couple dollars. For longer stays, students can even purchase a SIM card to keep in touch with family and friends for only a few dollars per month.

If the initial cost of getting to Tanzania is holding you back, have no fear! University and study abroad scholarships are a possibility for many language students who want to take language courses in Tanzania, or you could consider initiating your own fundraising campaign to cover the cost of courses and flights.

Accommodation & Visas

Most language programs in Tanzania offer students the chance to stay in a homestay. Living with a host family eliminates the stress of finding affordable housing in a safe area, provides meals daily, and gives you the opportunity to learn the language spoken on the street, rather than just the standard Swahili taught at universities. Language schools in Tanzania often provide group housing, and those that combine language study with volunteering will usually also have the option to live in a group house with other volunteers.

The visa process for Tanzania varies depending on your country of origin. A valid tourist visa is always required, along with proof of a yellow fever vaccination and a volunteer work permit if you plan to volunteer. Some nationalities can get their visa upon arrival, while others need to obtain a visa in their home country. The cost of the visa also varies depending on your country of origin. Check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more information on the visa process.

Benefits & Challenges

Any language program abroad comes with cultural quirks that can both break us out of our comfort zones and help us appreciate a new way of life. Tanzania is no different. While many language students will face an adjustment period, studying Swahili in Tanzania will give individuals the opportunity to slow down and make some of the greatest friends of their life.

In Tanzania, “harkaharaka haina baraka, polepole ndio mwendo,” or “moving quickly holds no blessing, going slowly brings progress.” The phrase standardizes Tanzania and their view of work and life. Things move at a different pace, on a different schedule. They say, Westerners have watches, but we have time; clearly, time is relative. Procrastination on this level can add to culture shock, but try to embrace it and take your time to slow down. Not to mention the way of telling time in Swahili is nuts!

People in Tanzania are the friendliest you will ever meet. They believe in community efforts, including others, and you might be considered rude if you do not greet every person you pass on the streets. They put people before work, almost to a point that it is a fault. Be prepared to make more friends than you’d ever imagine.

If you want an adventure in a country that will truly take you in with open arms, then language programs in Tanzania may be the perfect choice for you! Throw on your hiking boots and safari hat, and prepare to be wowed by some of the friendliest people, most beautiful landscapes, and biggest animals. Take a step outside your comfort zone and say, “Mambo!” to your next adventure abroad.

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