The Joys of the African Language Program in Spring 2022: A message from ALP Director Zoliswa “Zoli” Mali

As we end the Spring semester and head our different ways it is great to share a couple of academic events we and our students engaged in. We are grateful that the African Studies Center afforded us the opportunity to attend at least two very important events of our African Language pedagogy field. Dr Zoli Mali, our Swahili Master Lecturer, Mwalimu Judith Mmari, and Mr Mulugeta who teaches Amharic, attended a regional meeting of African language experts NERCPAL (North Eastern Regional Consortium of Programs in African Languagel) hosted by Yale University via ZOOM, on April 8th. Topics such as “Multi-literacies in Language Teaching & Learning”, “-based Approach to Language Teaching in Learning”, “Adapting Technologies for Designing Scenario-Based Activities in Teaching African Languages”, Virtual Environments in Language classes: The case of KUMOSPACE´and Movie Production in Foreign Language Classes were presented, and thus empowering and equipping colleagues with cutting edge information in the field of African Languages at large.

The highlight was the international Annual Conference of the African Language Teachers Association (ALTA) virtually hosted by Michigan State University on April 15 – 16, 2022. Several of our instructors attended, The immediate-past president of this organization, Dr Zoli Mali (who teaches isiXhosa, isiZulu & Africa Today) attended together with Judith Mmari (Swahili), Nneka Agba (Igbo), Ousmane Cisse (Mandinka), Lamine Diallo (Wolof, wih Ajami) script and Mulugeta Zegeye (Amharic). Two of our Advanced isiXhosa students, Allison “Fundiswa” Smith and Andre “Sipho” Batchelder-Schwab, co-presented with their language professor, Dr Zoli Mali. They received accolades for the gravitas of their presentation and their proficiency in written and spoken isiXhosa as they addressed their topic, “Using Authentic Materials in an African Language Classroom: Exploring its Efficacy and Challenges from the Learners’ Perspective” presented in two sessions, one in isiXhosa and the other in English with additional information different in one session from the other. Our former director, Professor Fallou Ngom, gave a keynote address to close ALTA!

There was also the always exciting African Language Theater Night on April 21! Our students and their instructors showed us in two hours what their learning has culminated to by displaying the creativity in drama and film production, whilst showcasing their linguistic skills in all of the EIGHT languages we offer. For the first time this year we had a tie for the winner: IGBO & WOLOF, both West African languages! All of our students did a splendid job!

This has been one of our most successful semesters as we have seen many of our students demonstrate their advanced abilities outside of the classroom! One of our Swahili students, Tess Pollins, won a $20 000 grant, to go and expand a building for an orphanage that she has been working on for a couple of years now in Tanzania! #Bravo!Some of our students managed to go to their target countries for research fieldwork, they beat COVID this year, that’s Josh Wright in Nairobi, Kenya (during Spring Break) and Allison Smith, in Cape Town, South Africa (May & June 2022). Several students from various languages won FLAS funding for summer and Academic Year language study!

Last, were the final project presentations where amazing research topics were addressed in depth using the target languages. The topics addressed were amazing! Earthquakes, Film Production, Whistling as a language register and Minstrel music and the effects of these in African countries. They brought collective learning in their individual research interest areas and it was fun!

I wish a happy summer break to everyone!