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2003 ALTA Annual Conference Report


The 7th Annual International African Language Teachers Association (ALTA) Conference, Integrating Culture in the African Language Classroom, took place in Bloomington, Indiana on April 10-April 12, 2003. The conference, which was partly sponsored by the National African Language Resource Center (NALRC), was held at the Indiana University. Over one hundred African language teachers, students and scholars attended the conference. Some 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, Botswana, Cameroon, South Africa, and France. The conference hosted two workshops, one keynote speaker, and twenty-five 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 respectively focused on African language program development and administration and Learning outcomes, Proficiency guidelines, National standards, and Curriculum development. The first workshop, held on Thursday, April 10th, was presented by Professors Eyamba Bokamba. The workshop intended to enhance the understanding of how to develop and sustain successfully programs in African languiages, but also to facilitate the understanding of the historical contexts that led to the creation and evolution of these programs. It was divided into three main parts: A summary of his book; organizational, administrative, and curriculum development issues; and a practicum in program evaluation. The second workshop was led by Professor Benjamin Rifkin on April 11th. This workshop first taught participants how the proficiency guidelines and the national standards for foreign language learning could be appropriated in designing foreign language curriculum and then described processes for curricular development in the foreign languags at the college level. The second part of the workshop was devoted to group work. The participants were divided into several groups and worked together in order to develop curricular frameworks for one or more African languages based on the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning and the Proficieny Guidelines.

On behalf of NALRC, Prof. Schleicher presented "On-line delivery of Yoruba." She started her presentation with the framework highlighting now the NALRC developed Yoruba on-line courses to serve the increasing population for learning Yoruba around the world. While she explained the contents of the on-line course, Olusola Adesope and Singhai Samit helped to show the demo. She encouraged the teachers of all other languages to develop such techniques to reach distant learners. Speaking about the technicalities, she explained that the contents of on-line classes are template-based and the contents can be altered. She even offered to share the template of the Yoruba on-line course with them. Lastly, she showed the demo of CD-ROM flash cards developed by NALRC.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Professor Euphrase Kezilahabi, who is the Professor at the University of Botswana. He discussed the use of aesthetics in the teaching of African Languages with particular reference to Kiswahili. It tackled two questions: why is culture relevant and what is in culture that really connects the teaching of language to it. Finally, he concluded that culture is dynamic and aesthetic sensibility cuts across racial and class barriers and gave some suggestions on how to select cultural materials for use in class.

The ALTA 2003 Conference concluded on Saturday, April 12th with language working group meeting. For the meeting, the participants were grouped according to the language they were teaching. They were Kiswahili, Kikuyu and other East African Languages, Yoruba, Bambara and other West African languages, and Zulu and Southern African languages. The groups were led by Prof. Alwiya Omar, Indiana University, Prof. John Mugane, Ohio University, Mr. Akinloye Ojo, University of Georgia, Prof. Hutchison, Boston University, and Prof. Sandra Sanneh, Yale University. 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.