Applied Linguistics and Literacy
in Africa & the Diaspora Research Network

BAAL seminar on Minority Languages and New Media

February 11th, 2017

The British Association For Applied Linguistics is organizing a seminar entitled Minority Languages and New Media: Towards language revitalisation in Africa and Europe at Aston University, Birmingham, April 27-28, 2017. Abstracts are due February 20. More information.

Dr. Juliet Tembe, In Memoriam (UMLEN)

December 20th, 2016

UMLEN with great sadness announces the death of Dr. Juliet Tembe who passed away last night in Mbale. Juliet has been a key pillar in the Uganda Multilingual Education Network ever since it was founded. She has served on the network’s coordination committee, with great dedication and always made it a point to participate in activities either physically in Kampala or remotely from her office at the Islamic University in Uganda, Mbale Campus. Juliet loved local language literacy and education with a passion. At the time of her death, she had translated this passion into concrete actions that have uplifted the footprint of literature in local languages especially for children and young people.

Her work as coordinator of the Africa Storybooks Project an online platform that has published several readers for children in different Ugandan languages is testimony of this dedication. She was instrumental in setting up the Lunyole Language Association which has not only helped to codify the language but also boosted a language comparatively with a few speakers into one of the most published in Uganda. In fact Lunyole with 341,000 speakers in Uganda is ranked 4th amongst languages with the most titles of books, only beaten to the top honours by Luganda, Lugbara and Lango. Juliet helped set up Busolwe Public Library to both provide access to reading materials and inspire literary creativity within the community. Sometime in 2015, Juliet disclosed to the UMLEN coordination committee that she suffered from Leiomyosarcoma, high-grade and very aggressive cancer in her upper left thigh and at that time had spread to the nodule in the lung.She fought on and kept in touch until last night. Our heartfelt condolences to the family and relatives. May God rest Dr. Juliet Tembe’s soul in peace. Burial is due Saturday 17th December 2016 in Busolwe, Butaleja district.

Charles Batambuze

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The African Storybook in the Digital Age

November 28th, 2016

ReN Africa’s director, Bonny Norton, has named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. This is the PechaKucha presentation she gave at her induction:

Pan African Reading for All Conference, Abuja, 2017

November 6th, 2016

The Reading Association of Nigeria will host the 10th annual Pan African Literacy for All Conference on August 28–31, 2017. The conference theme is “Connecting and Engaging with Literacies: Systems and Structures for Sustainable Development”. Contact: Judith Baker (judithbakr@gmail.com). Website.

LIA BAAL SIG annual conference, Reading, UK, May 2017

November 6th, 2016

The next Annual Conference of the LIA BAAL SIG will be held on Friday, May 5, 2017 at the University of Reading and the theme will be “Language without Borders: Multilingual Communication in Africa and the Diaspora”. Papers are invited on any topic which fits into that theme, including translation, translanguaging, oral communication and so forth. Please contact the LiASIG Secretary Goodith White (anne.goodithwhite@ucd.ie) for more information.

Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP)

November 5th, 2016

Accredited universities in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda can submit a project request to host a scholar. Scholars born in Africa, who live in the United States or Canada and work in an accredited college or university in either of those two countries, can apply to be placed on a roster of available candidates for a fellowship. Scholars must hold a terminal degree in their field and may hold any academic rank. Scholars who have already received a fellowship in the fall 2015 or spring 2016 competitions, are not eligible to participate.

Selection decisions will be made in March 2017; project visits can begin as early as May 1, 2017 and must be completed by August 31, 2017. Projects can be conducted in the African host country for 14-90 days. For the fellowship, the African Diaspora Fellow will receive a $200/day stipend, visa costs, limited health insurance coverage, and round-trip international air travel. Deadline: December 8, 2016. Contact: Jeremy Coats (africandiaspora@iie.org). Website.

Commonwealth Scholarships for Master’s and PhD study

November 5th, 2016

Commonwealth Scholarships for Master’s and PhD study in the UK are offered for citizens of developing Commonwealth Countries. These scholarships are funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), with the aim of contributing to the UK’s international development aims and wider overseas interests, supporting excellence in UK higher education, and sustaining the principles of the Commonwealth.Deadline: November 15, 2016. More information.

Kamwangamalu (2016): Language Policy and Economics: The Language Question in Africa

November 5th, 2016

This book addresses the perennial question of how to promote Africa’s indigenous languages as medium of instruction in educational systems. Breaking with the traditional approach to the continent’s language question by focusing on the often overlooked issue of the link between African languages and economic development, Language Policy and Economics argues that African languages are an integral part of a nation’s socio-political and economic development. Therefore, the book argues that any language policy designed to promote these languages in such higher domains as the educational system in particular must have economic advantages if the intent is to succeed, and proposes Prestige Planning as the way to address this issue. More information.

BAAL Language in Africa SIG: Annual Meeting May 6, 2016, University of East London

November 4th, 2016

Under the theme “Technology & Media: Emerging trends in Africa and the diaspora”, several themes emerged over the day. One was concerned with the use of social media for representing African languages and culture. Elvis Yevudey & Nathaniel Dorgbetor studied how Facebook was providing opportunities for communication in Ewe, a Ghanaian language, among a large population of Ewe speakers.

Two talks and a poster focused on social media as a form of political activism. In his poster, Size Echitchi presented identity work in the speeches of southern Cameroonian secessionists which are available on websites. The two talks described contrasting online groups of Eritrean refugees in the diaspora. Sarah Ogbay & Goodith White analysed the linguistic practices of an Eritrean Women’s Network on Facebook, and how these were used to achieve consensus, empower women and network on a global scale. Chefena Hailemariam presented political discussion from a group on Viber, mainly young Eritrean men for whom the network platform provided a democratic space in which they could express themselves freely and contest other views.

Another theme concerned how technology could be used to preserve and disseminate underrepresented or threatened African languages. Kirsty Rowan described how speakers of Nubian languages, which are threatened by the loss of the historic homeland and displacement due to the building of dams on the River Nile, are being assisted in revitalizing their language and culture through a project from the SOAS World Languages Institute for making video and audio recordings. Richard Shapiro of Oxford University Press described an ambitious project of making dictionary and language information for 100 languages globally accessible online over the next ten years. The theme of local involvement occurred again in the presentation by Manuela Noske of Microsoft. After providing interesting data concerning different African languages available on Google, Microsoft and Facebook, she presented some of the challenges Microsoft has faced in trying to meet new markets through localisation of products.

A central theme for the day was that of encouraging literacy through the use of stories which could be digitally accessed or created. Bonny Norton, our plenary speaker, described how the African Storybook Initiative was enabling children to learn to read in their mother tongue. Research has shown that children who first learn to read in their L1 do so more quickly and that L2 learning is also helped, yet very few reading resources exist in the L1. The African Storybook website currently makes freely available more than 500 original stories, and over 2,500 translations in 60 African languages. Ian Cheffy described another recent free resource from SIL International for creating and translating simple books.

Last but not least, two talks focussed on technology as a medium of oral communication. Abdulmalik Ofemile’s talk described his study of participants’ reactions to interactions with synthesised and human voices giving instructions in English in a Nigerian context. Rebecca Musa reported on her research into the most effective way to teach English pronunciation in Nigerian secondary schools.

SOAS Africa Conference, London, July 2017

November 3rd, 2016

The SOAS Centre of African studies (CAS) calls for contributions for the first SOAS Africa Conference to be held on 20th and 21st of July 2017. The conference theme, “Imagining Africa’s Future”, marks SOAS’ centenary, and in order to celebrate a century of African studies we look forward to examine future key trends, changes and debates that are likely to shape the African continent over the coming century, drawing from a broad range of disciplines and perspectives in a truly inter-disciplinary conference. 500-words abstract should be sent to cas@soas.ac.uk. More information. Deadline: December 10, 2016.