ALTA 2007 Conference Report
The Eleventh Anniversary Meeting and Conference of the African Language Teachers Association took place on Thursday, March 22nd-Sunday March 25th 2007, at the University of Florida-Gainesville. It was held jointly with the 38th Annual Conference of African Linguists (ACAL). The conference brought together over seventy (70) teachers of African languages from around the U.S. and from nations such as Nigeria and South Africa. The theme of this year's conference was "African Language Pedagogy and Media: Striving for a Successful Learning Experience."
This year's conference sponsors included a number of organizations at UF-Gainesville such as: Center for African Studies, Department of African and Asian Languages and Literatures, Linguistics Program, Office of Research, Office of the Provost, U.S. Department of Education, as well as the University of Wisconsin's National African Language Resource Center.
The conference began on Thursday, March 22nd, with a Pre-Conference workshop titled "Standards for Learning African Languages and Implications for the Classroom." It was led by four presenters, the first of whom was Antonia Folarin Schleicher, Director of National African Languages Resource Center (NALRC). Other presenters in this Pre-Conference workshop included Katrina Thompson, Lecturer in Swahili at the University of California, Los Angeles; Akinloye Ojo, Professor of Yoruba at the University of Georgia; and Zoliswa Mali, Professor of Zulu at the University of Iowa.
On Friday, March 23rd, after opening remarks by UF Provost Janie Fouke, the first Plenary session was led by Professor Herman Batibo, Head of the Language Section of the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Botswana whose presentation was titled "Language Documentation as a Strategy for the Empowerment of the Minority Languages of Africa." The rest of the day was spent on parallel panel presentations and discussion sessions. This day ended with a warm reception at Harn Museum of Art, an event that was prefaced by the second plenary session in which Sonja Diallo presented on "Publishing as the Documentation of a Language: The Role of Literacy and Publishing in both the Standardization and the Development of the Pulaar Language."
Saturday, March 24th began with the third plenary session led by Laura Downing titled "Optimality Theory and African Language Phonology." Parallel presentations followed for the rest of the day. Noteworthy is the fact that the afternoon was devoted to language-specific panel presentations (sessions conducted in the language about the pedagogy of the language) on Swahili, Yoruba, and Zulu. This day’s final event was a banquet in which various awards were presented. Zoliswa Mali from the University of Iowa was presented with the ALTA Emerging Scholar Award for excellence in Zulu language teaching and dedication to the field of African language pedagogy, while the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida at Gainesville received the ALTA African Language Pedagogy Support Award for their exceptional support of African language programs in their region.
Over the course of the conference, more than fifty (50) papers were presented. The topics addressed at this year’s conference included
- The nature of the information conveyed by media technologies,
- The channels of information,
- The phases in the process of learning, teaching and testing (e.g. used for presentation, --repetition, testing, etc.)
- the didactic functions (e.g. used to motivate learners, convey information, stimulate real-life communicative situations, etc.),
- The degree of availability, accessibility, and adaptability of media technologies,
- The possibilities for supporting, supplementing, or replacing the teacher, and curriculum and materials development, etc.
Other traditional topics in phonology, syntax, morphology, semantics and pragmatics as they relate to second language acquisition and particularly to African language pedagogy were also addressed.
The 2007 ALTA/ACAL conference brought together a variety of African language professionals from different backgrounds and countries around the world. Additional information about this conference can be found on the ALTA 2007 Conference Website.