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2001 ALTA Conference Report


The 5th Annual International African Language Teachers Association (ALTA) Conference took place in Madison, Wisconsin on April 26th-April 28th, 2001. The conference, which was organized by the National African Language Resource Center (NALRC), was held at the Howard Johnson Plaza-Hotel. Two hundred African language teachers, students and scholars attended the conference. Many of the graduate students who attended the conference were able to do so thanks to the funding provided by the NALRC. The conference attendees came from the United States, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Jordan, France, Germany and Canada. The conference hosted two workshops, three keynote speakers, two panel discussions and twenty-eight paper presentations. The topics of the paper presentations ranged from methodologies for teaching African languages to issues affecting Second Language Acquisition.

The two workshops that were presented at the conference focused on African language classroom management and learner styles and strategies for language teachers, respectively. The first workshop, held on Thursday, April 26th, was presented by Professors Lioba Moshi and Antonia Folárìn Schleicher. The workshop facilitated discussion on how to manage African language classes in a way that will make them memorable experiences for both teachers and students. It also looked at class structuring and management, the development of a workable syllabus, lesson plans, material presentation, and how to be creative with the language. The second workshop was led by Professors Rebecca Oxford and Andrew Cohen on Friday, April 27th. This workshop taught participants how styles, strategies, and motivation contribute to language learning, explored the possible interconnections among tasks, styles, and strategies and taught how to plan and conduct Strategies Based Instruction (SBI).

The three keynote speakers at the conference were Professor Ayo Bamgbose, Professor Herman Batibo and Professor Eyamba Bokamba. Professor Bamgbose, who is professor emeritus at the University of Ibadan in Ibadan, Nigeria, opened the conference with a keynote address that focused on possible collaboration and initiatives in African language teaching. Professor Batibo, who is the Chair of the Department of African Linguistics at the University of Botswana, closed the conference with a speech that dealt with experiences and challenges of teaching African languages in Africa. Professor Bokamba's talk was the focus of a panel discussion that centered on the evolution of the field of African Languages in the United States.

The ALTA general meeting was held on Saturday, April 28th. The meeting was led by the outgoing ALTA president, Professor John Mtembezi Inniss. The topics discussed included ALTA involvement in the development of programs, materials and consultation for K-12 African language learners and the Language Standards Committee. Elections were also held, and Professor Alwiya Omar was voted in as the next vice president, and Professor David Dwyer was elected secretary-treasurer. It was announced that next year's ALTA conference, which Professor John Mugane, the incoming ALTA president, will chair, will be held at Ohio University. The conference will be held in conjunction with ACAL, the Annual Conference on African Linguistics.

The ALTA 2001 Conference concluded on Saturday, April 28th with an awards ceremony, where two African language scholars were honored for distinguished service. The conference was a wonderful forum for professional development and for the members of the field of African language teaching to communicate and share ideas.