An AILA Research
EAST AFRICA COORDINATORS:
Hellen Inyega (University of Nairobi) firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacinta Ndambuki, (University of
Willy Ngaka (University of KwaZulu-Natal) email@example.com
WEST AFRICA COORDINATORS:
Kate Adoo-Adeku (University of Ghana)
SOUTHERN AFRICA COORDINATORS:
Violet Lunga, (University of
Dear ReN Africa Members,
Once again, I welcome you to our April issue of the ReN Africa Newsletter. In this issue, you will find news about upcoming conferences especially in Africa, but also interesting and informative reports from various conferences held in the past six months.
Our pedagogical practice is so much better when it is informed by findings from the field. Are you grappling with how to teach reading in the myriad of African languages? Read about the different views of some experts during the BAAL SiG LiA workshop and from the papers presented on language policy and practice in education during the BAAL conference.
In the last issue, we mentioned about a new initiative by the South African Institute for Distance Education. The African Storybook Project has made great strides since then, and you will learn more about the progress so far, including opportunities it offers for research.
Lastly, you will find book reviews and publications. We always want to learn about what research you are engaged in. Make ReN Africa Newsletter your platform for disseminating your research.
I would like to thank all those who have read the ReN Africa Newsletter and given us their feedback. It helps us to remain relevant to our community of practice in AILA. Enjoy.
With best regards,
Conference: Reading Methodologies in African Languages, Johannesburg, 24–27 June
Language in Africa SIG of BAAL (British Association for Applied
Linguistics) is holding its Annual Meeting on Saturday, 3 May, 2014, at
the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of
London. Dr. Tope Omoniyi, Professor of Sociolinguistics, University of
Roehampton will be leading presentations with ‘The English-Plus Project
and Effective Public Healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa’. His interests
and publications cover a wide area: these include language policy and
planning, the impact of social change on language identity, and
multilingualism and education. There will be eight further
presentations on language issues in countries across the continent from
the Gambia to Malawi.
Poster presentations are still welcome for display throughout the day – these can be sent in by email by those unable to attend in person to Dr. Ross Graham: firstname.lastname@example.org. The attendance fee is £20 for BAAL members, £30 for non-members, and £10 for students. We particularly welcome attendance by postgraduate students. Registration forms are available from the LIASIG website: liasig.wordpress.com. Enquiries to email@example.com
Conference: “Language: Synergies and intersections”, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa: 24 - 27 June
The Language in Africa SIG of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) is forming a Thematic Panel on reading in Sub-Saharan Africa. There will be at least 4 papers, led by Leila Schroeder of SIL who published “Teaching and Assessing Independent Reading Skills in Multilingual African Countries: Not as Simple as ABC” in Language Issues in Comparative Education last year. It concerns appropriate methodologies in African social and linguistic contexts. This panel is a continuation of the Language in Africa SIG seminar Reading in African Languages: Developing literacies and reading methodologies held with the University of KwaZulu-Natal at SOAS, University of London, on the 17, Jan. 2014. That seminar raised a great deal of interest in issues in reading in Sub-Saharan Africa (report in this Newsletter). www.wits.ac.za/conferences/language
Cambridge-Africa Alborada Research Fund
Cambridge-Africa Alborada Research Fund
STIR Education Uganda Partnerships Manager
issue of the Journal of Communication and Language Arts on Reading,
Literacy and the Burden of Underdevelopment in Africa
The African Storybook Project Research Network
BAAL Conference 2013: ‘Opening New Lines of Communication in Applied Linguistics’ Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, September 5–7, 2013
The four papers presented various aspects of language policy and practice in education in Ghana, South Africa and Uganda. Report of Language in Africa SIG track papers and meeting
Report of Language in Africa SIG track papers and meeting
Baleeta and Islei reported their interim findings on the teaching of literacy in Primary 1 in Ugandan government schools. Literacy skills are not improving as was hoped when a new Thematic Curriculum for Primary 1- 3, to be taught through local languages, was introduced in 2007. Their project is based in a particular District of Uganda, involving the local university, the Primary Teachers’ College, especially Tutors responsible for in-service support, District and Municipality inspectors and seven well-regarded schools. The aim is to produce a ‘refresher course’ for in-service teachers in early literacy. They highlighted that they have found a problem that is more fundamental than methods and materials: the curriculum hardly provides any syllabus content or guidance for teaching literacy through a Bantu language. They noted that this must be due to the gradual loss of knowledge of teaching in ‘the vernacular’ since Independence; English has almost completely permeated the Ugandan education system. However, through their ethnographic and collaborative approach the researchers have found strong local interest and underlying expertise in literacy in the local language. Teachers respond very positively to reviving their knowledge of the traditional syllabic method, known as ‘Alifu’. However, the researchers cautioned that this method is restricted, especially in developing sound awareness and reading stories from early on. They are exploring how to develop the method within the 2007 Thematic Curriculum with the seven teachers in their classrooms.
Baleeta and Islei are grateful to BAAL for supporting their project through the Linguistic Activities Fund 2013-14, and enabling Margaret Baleeta to present at the conference through the Chris Brumfit Scholarship.
Ansre reported on her survey of the implementation of the Ghana language policy in education in Primary One classrooms. This research is preliminary to her PhD proposal. Ghana has a particularly complex history of language in education policy, and is still finding it difficult to address the multilingual and linguistic complexity of lower primary classrooms. Currently the government has chosen 11 Ghanaian languages that can be used as medium of instruction from Kindergarten 1 – Primary class 3. Like most Sub-Saharan African countries, Ghana is highly multilingual, and there is wide variation in the number of speakers of a single language, and great diversity of languages spoken within the urban centres. This frequently makes the selection of the language to be used in a primary school a very sensitive issue. Ansre sampled monolingual, bilingual and multilingual schools in the Ga district and Volta Region. She found that not only are weak teacher training and lack of resources a widespread problem, the actual choice of language creates particular difficulties in particular schools: for example, the teacher may not be fluent in the language, or there may be a high proportion of pupils with a different mother tongue from the language of the school. Ansre concluded that the challenges of providing education through Ghanaian languages needs to be addressed through context sensitive materials and methods, not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
These first two papers highlighted the problems in pedagogy that can result from lack of research into language and literacy acquisition in African languages, and lack of research into sociolinguistic contexts. The next paper by Anku was more closely aligned with the theme of the conference – new lines of communication.
Anku focussed on the influence of social media on student writing, with the particular emphasis that in countries like Ghana where English is the most powerful official language of the country, but has to be learned by the majority through school education (ESL), the effect of social media on students’ writing is particularly significant. Parents, media and policy makers in Ghana are concerned that students’ performance in English is deteriorating country-wide. Anku collected data from three sites commonly used in Ghana - Facebook, Twitter and Whatsup – to establish the frequency of non-standard usages in grammar, lexis, orthography and punctuation. She complemented this with questionnaires and interviews, and matched the results with the types and frequency of language errors in students’ essays and exercises. She found several correspondences, especially in the use of abbreviations and punctuation. Anku suggested that more work on pronunciation will help students with spelling.
The presentation raised very interesting questions, for example: why should this be perceived as more of a problem in Ghana than in the UK? Is the emphasis on accuracy an example of language insecurity, sometimes expressed through negative attitudes to the development of new varieties of English, even as used by the educated? Or is the spread of inaccuracies a justified fear? In a sociolinguistic (ESL) context where there is less everyday use of standard English for learners to hear and read, are young people less aware of the difference between standard and non-standard forms? But peer group non-standard usages and lack of reading are not confined to Africa …
Wildsmith-Cromarty’s presentation on the potential role for Kiswahili in South Africa gave us the opportunity to view language policy in education from a different perspective. In post-apartheid SA there are now 11 official languages. Is there more political will towards developing the use of African languages than in other Sub-Saharan countries? One difference seems to be the focus on using them in Higher Education: in 2014 the University of KwaZulu-Natal is becoming officially bilingual in isiZulu and English. Yet in South Africa there also seem to be similar problems to other African countries due to parents’ perception of English as the means to upward mobility, and the complexity of using African languages when the pupils in a school may well not speak the same home language (see Ansre’s paper). Wildsmith-Cromarty has begun to explore the possibility of introducing Kiswahili as a way out of the dilemmas – noting that not only is it an official Language of Wider Communication in East Africa, but that social attitudes in SA may be favourable as it was used as a language of ‘the struggle’ among ANC cadres training in East Africa at the time. The focus in SA at present is on developing and promoting the African languages, and the role of English is being questioned. Kiswahili may at least be perceived as African. Using questionnaires and interviews, Wildsmith-Cromarty investigated attitudes and identity issues amongst a sample of university students, and those in the informal sector. She found that 89% considered Kiswahili favourably in a range of domains, mainly for travel and tourism, followed by trade, education and culture. This research shows a way into local investigations into cultural values that are affecting language policies and practices.
Report on the BAAL SiG LiA Workshop: Reading Methodologies in African Languages, SOAS, University of London, January 17, 2014
The seminar was held from 13h00 – 18h00 at SOAS and was hosted by Lutz Marten. It had been organized by the following BAAL members: Caroline McGlynn, Lutz Marten, Ross Graham and Rosemary Wildsmith-Cromarty, who also led the seminar. There were 30 participants and 7 presenters.
The opening address, Reading in African Languages: Research and Practice by Rosemary Wildsmith-Cromarty set the tone for the afternoon by providing an overview of the current debates in the field. She distinguished between two major areas of focus in Reading and Literacy research: reading as an individual, psycholinguistic and cognitive process with emphasis on the structure of language and the mechanics of reading on one hand, and reading as a social, often collective experience with literacy being emphasised as social practice/s. The overview then covered the implications for reading pedagogy based on the different perspectives, and research initiatives in South Africa addressing these areas. The appropriateness of current methodologies in use in African classrooms was questioned. This led to the key question to be addressed by the seminar: if the reading process is different for learners reading in an African language which is structurally different from many European languages, including English, how should instructional techniques be adapted to cater for this? Could the solution lie in a mixed-methods approach, which would then have serious implications for teacher training in Africa?
The rest of the seminar was arranged thematically with the first theme focusing on reading processes, and the second on successful pedagogic interventions. With reference to the first theme, Elizabeth Pretorius (The use of eye tracking technology to study reading development in African languages) and Sandra Land (Zulu orthography and reading) presented their research on the application of eye-tracking technology to reading processes in the African languages. Their position is that given the agglutinative, transparent orthography of most languages within the proto-Bantu group, we cannot assume that processes and norms for reading will be the same as those for other languages, especially English. A further distinction was made between Bantu languages with a conjunctive orthography and those with a disjunctive orthography. Pretorius presented her research on reading development at the Foundation Phase in Zulu, Northern Sotho and English, whilst Land focused on the reading behaviour of competent adult speakers of Zulu. Both researchers explored the possible effects of orthographic features and differences on reading processes.
The second theme contained presentations by Andrea Kiso on a teacher training project in Malawi (Focusing on language structure: a literacy project in Malawi), Anne Smyth on a bilingual reading project in Swaziland (Asifundzeni: An intervention aimed at developing bilingual reading skills), Jo Westbrook (Towards a balanced approach to early reading in sub-Saharan Africa: phonics vs whole language continues) on the challenges of appropriate teacher training for African languages, and Francoise Ugochukwu (Functional Igbo (Nigeria) – the potential advantages of learning in dialect) on learning in one of the dialects of the Igbo language through the ‘Functional Igbo’ method. Smyth’s paper argued that children learn inappropriate ways of reading (i.e. decoding of phonemes and words as opposed to the construction of meaning) if their first experience of reading is in a ‘foreign’ language, i.e. English. She introduced a reading intervention, Asifundzeni, which worked with illustrated ‘Big Books’ in both languages as a way of focusing on meaning. The findings from her research show that regular exposure to books and reading the same text twice facilitate comprehension. Ugochukwu, in a similar vein, presented an intervention for learning Igbo consisting of a partly bilingual manual and DVD for primary school teachers, pupils and their families. The aim is to revive Igbo in a diasporic context by providing material in the home dialect in order to contribute to the language–of- instruction debate in Nigeria.
Both Kiso and Westbrook focused on the importance of appropriate teacher training for African educational contexts. Kiso’s intervention focused on the language structure of Chichewa and the phonological and grammatical units in the pupil’s indigenous mother tongues that may differ from those of Chichewa and therefore could create difficulties for teaching children to read Chichewa, the dominant language of instruction. A handbook has been developed for teacher training as a result of this project. Westbrook, on the other hand, problematized the emphasis on phonics teaching by donors and national assessments of early reading, stressing that the teaching of phonics requires adequate resources, teachers specialised in reading processes and a systematic approach. Without these in place, phonics teaching leads to rote learning and memorization rather than on deriving meaning from text. Westbrook thus argues for a more balanced approach as both phonics and word level work are appropriate for languages with transparent orthographies. This, she argues, prepares the way for the reading and comprehension of continuous text.
The ensuing discussions after each presentation yielded the following main points for reflection going forward:
Archer, A. and Newfield. D. (eds.) (2014). Multimodal approaches to research and pedagogy: Recognition, resources and access. New York and Abingdon, Routledge.
book takes a social justice approach to literacy, representation and
communication, has an explanatory introductory chapter, and contains a
collection of case studies from South Africa, focusing on multimodality
Ekanjume-Ilongo, B. (2013). Phonology made easy for novices. Lambert Academic Publishers.
book is intended for use by students who are studying Linguistics for
the first time and are being introduced to Phonology as novices. From
the author's experience as a Phonetics and Phonology teacher, such
students find it difficult to adjust with the new symbols and
terminology they are meeting for the first time. The book therefore
tries to make students who are interested in language to understand the
importance of knowing phonology, and introduces the main units and
concepts of the disciple. Since the book is mainly intended as an
introduction to phonology for beginners, it goes straight into the
fundamental component of phonology – which is the phoneme –and gives
the students many exercises that will enable them to put into practice
what they have learned theoretically.
About the author: Dr Beatrice EKANJUME ILONGO is a holder of PhD in Linguistics from the University of Yaoundé 1- Cameroon. She has been teaching a broad range of Linguistics courses in the university for the past 13 years (Cameroon, Burundi and Lesotho). She is presently a Senior Lecturer and Head of English Department at the National University of Lesotho. Her major research interests are in Phonetics/Phonology, Morphology, African Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Pragmatics and other related disciplines. She has several publications in these areas in accredited refereed journals.
Kalel, T. M. (2014). Essai de grammaire kanyok -L32- Phonologie, Morphologie, Syntaxe (Essay of kanyok grammar -L32- Phonology, Morphology, Syntax). Editions René Descartes, Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Université de Kinshasa/ René Descartes Editions, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, University of Kinshasa.
book is a synchronic description of this language belonging to the luba
zone of Guthrie, description derived according to functional method of
Luc Bouquiaux. Phonology presents tones, phonemes, vocalic length,
syllabic structure, combinations and frequency of sounds. Morphology
presents the description of morphophonemes, and morphotonemes with
rules of representation. It gives an outline of grammatical categories
from minimal utterance, derivation's and composition's mechanisms,
syntagmatic structures, conjugation paradigm. Syntax presents
grammatical categories which can function as subject, predicate and
complement. It presents also primary relations , allowed combinations
and incompatibilities. Syntax also analyses the sentence according to
it is simple, complex, marginal, marked or non-marked. Marked sentence
has mechanisms as emphasis, interrogation, exclamation, injunction,
passivation, negation and modalisation. Complex sentence examines four
relations: juxtaposition, coordination, subordination and
About the author:
Timothée MUKASH KALEL is Professor of Congoleese languages, African
linguistics, morphology and syntax of bantu languages and contrastive
analysis French-Bantu languages. My thesis at University of Sorbonne in
1982 described phonology, morphology and syntagmatic of Kanyok language.
Mumin, M. & Versteegh, K. (eds.) (2014).
The Arabic script in Africa: studies in the use of a writing system
(Studies in Semitic languages and linguistics, 71). Leiden: Brill.
Hardback, 400 pages, 2 colour maps, 134 € / 174$. ISBN13:
9789004256798. E-ISBN: 9789004256804.
Send us a short profile (one paragraph) of the research you are undertaking on language or literacy education in Africa by August 31, 2014, for inclusion in our next issue.