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ALTA 2004 Conference Report

The 8th Annual International ALTA conference was held at the University of Wisconsin, Madison between April 29th and May 1st, as was decided at the end of the 7th ALTA conference. This gave the National African Language Resource Center (NALRC), as a co-sponsor and a part of the organizing committee, an ample time to plan for the conference. Special thanks go to the ALTA members who promptly supplied all the information needed by the organizing committee to make this year’s conference a success. In addition many thanks are accorded to the staff of both The Howard Johnson Hotel and The Grainger Hall -Conference Services for their warm accommodation during the conference.

As early as 9:00am, on April 29th, conference participants had already started reporting at the registration desk which was manned by the NALRC staff. Registration commenced at 12:00 noon and by the end of the conference, a total of 48 participants registered for the conference. The conference started with a pre-conference workshop which was conducted by Andrew Cohen on "Multiple Approaches to Language Assessment". During the period of the workshop, a teacher-students relationship was seen as it got to a time when the 'teacher’, Andrew Cohen, had to remove his coat for free gesticulation. Participants were engaged in paired and group discussions during the workshop. They also took part in a brief 'test construction’ activity in small working groups.

Right after the workshop, a reception for both the ALTA and The National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) followed. It was during this reception that the inauguration of the UW-Madison Language Institute took place. The reception also featured wonderful performances from various parts of the globe including Africa, China, India, Korea, and the Middle-East much to the delight of the participants because it conveniently put everyone in a festive mood. This is not to mention that there was also a Yoruba poetry reading session.

The welcome session was addressed by Gilead Morahg, Magdalena Hauner, Sally Magnan, John Mugane, and Antonia Schleicher. The ALTA members then proceeded to Grainger Hall which was a walking distance of ten minutes. At the Grainger Hall, there were three plenary sessions and twenty nine paper presentations. A luncheon was held in memoriam of Paul Kotey, a Ghanaian national and previous president of ALTA who passed away last year. Joe Amoako and Samuel Obeng; both clad in the traditional Ghanaian 'Kente’, honored Paul Kotey as it would have been done in Ghana.

John Dean Brown, from Hawaii, gave his presentation on "What every Language Teacher Needs to Know about Research and Publication", at the end of which everyone came out of the lecture room loaded with ideas. Antonia Schleicher, in her presentation "Voices from the Field and Vision Statements of NALRC", portrayed the NALRC to be a standard of what a Language Resource Center should be.

The executives of ALTA made use of the period of the conference to hold a Business Meeting which brought all ALTA members together to discuss on the future of ALTA. The Business Meeting participants concluded that the 9th Annual International Conference would be held at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

The Guest speaker for the 8th Annual International ALTA Conference, Prof. 'Wande Abimbola’, who is currently the Special adviser to President Olesegun Obasanjo of Nigeria on Cultural Affairs and Traditional Matters, spoke on the theme of the conference – "Expanding Our Vision for African Language Pedagogy: A priority for the 21st Century" during a dinner held for the participants. He acknowledged the efforts that ALTA members were making in teaching the languages and cultures of Africa in the United States to both Americans and African-Americans (who comprise of both the historic Diaspora immigrants and the contemporary immigrants).

In conclusion, Prof. Alwiya Omar, of Indiana University showed her appreciation to all for their individual and collective effort towards the success of the conference.