On December 19th 2000, the then President of the Republic of Mali, His Excellency Alpha Oumar KONARE, established the Mission for the African Academy of Languages (MACALAN), by Presidential Decree N°00-630/PRM.
The Mission became the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) in January 2006, when its statutes were adopted by the Sixth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the African Union, as a specialised institution of the African Union.
ACALAN is entrusted with the task of developing and promoting African languages so that they can be used in all domains of the society in partnership with the languages inherited from colonisation: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
- To encourage the formulation and establishment of vigorous and articulated language policies and the sharing of experiences in policy-making and implementation in the Member States of the African Union, as a means of using African languages in a wider range of domains without abandoning the use of colonial languages.
- To identify vehicular cross-border languages and establish commissions to develop and promote them, on the basis that African languages will serve to forge the linguistic and cultural unity of Africa to maximise resources and minimise costs.
- To promote and develop the use of African languages in general and vehicular cross-border languages in particular, in partnership with the former colonial languages;
- To promote functional multilingualism, especially at the education sector;
- To ensure the development of African languages as a factor of African integration and development.
- To establish its two working structures: Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions (VCLC) and National Language Structures (NLS) as national focal points in the Member States of the African Union.
- To accompany the Ministers of Education and of Culture of the African Union Member States in the revamping of the system of education in Africa.
- To technically assist Member States of the African Union in the formulation and implementation of national language policies.
- To assist in the implementation of the Charter for the African Cultural Renaissance and of the Language Plan of Action for Africa
- To collaborate with the regional institutions of language and oral tradition such as:
® The African Union’s Centre of Linguistic and Historical Studies through Oral Tradition (CELHTO);
® The International Centre for Research and Documentation on African Traditions and Languages (CERDOTOLA);
® The Eastern African Centre for Research on Oral Tradition and National Languages (EACROTANAL),
® The International Centre for Bantu Civilisation, (CICIBA)…
ACALAN’s organs are :
- The AU Conference of Ministers of Culture – (The Specialised Technical Committee on Youth Culture and Sports (STC-YCS) - supreme organ;
- The Governing Board - highest policy organ;
- The Scientific and Technical Committee - consultative organ;
- The Assembly of Academicians - advisory organ;
- The Executive Secretariat - administrative organ.
ACALAN’s working structures are:
- The National Language Structures (NLS): one in each AU Member State.
- The National Language Structures (NLS): one in each AU Member State.
- The Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions: one for each vehicular cross-border language.
According to article 26 of its statutes, the resources of ACALAN shall be obtained from:
- Voluntary contributions from Member States;
- The services of ACALAN;
- The sale of products of ACALAN;
- Subventions from the AU and such other organisations;
- Donations and legacies approved by the Board;
- Resources established on an exceptional basis.
ACALAN’s core projects are:
- Linguistic Atlas for Africa (LAA).
® To produce precise knowledge about the number of African languages, their interrelations and dialectical variations.
- Pan-African Master’s and PhD Programme in African Languages and Applied Linguistics (PANMAPAL)
® To train qualified linguists, language professionals, educators and other practitioners to become specialists in African languages.
- Pan-African School for Translation and Interpretation (PASTI).
® To Train young Africans in the profession of translation and interpretation so as to enable African languages become true working languages and languages of instruction in a multilingual context.
- Terminology and Lexicography (TLP).
® To train dictionary compilers and terminology developers; and provide research, support, counsel services in these fields in the major African languages.
- Stories Across Africa (SAA).
® To produce anthologies of stories for children to enjoy in their own languages as a means of instilling the culture of reading in them.
- African Languages and the Cyberspace (ALC).
® To promote African languages in the cyberspace and apply Human Language Technologies to them.
ACALAN’s technical and financial partners are:
® The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)
® The International Union of Academies (UAI)
® The World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL)
® The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)
® Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa (ERNWACA)
® The Swiss Cooperation
® The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL International)
Among others, ACALAN has:
- Identified forty-one (41) Vehicular Cross-border Languages on which ACALAN is now focusing;
- Selected twelve (12) out of the forty-one (41) Vehicular Cross-border Languages for the establishment of the first batch of Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions.
- Established Fifteen (15) Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions:
- Chichewa/Chinyanja and Setswana in Southern Africa;
- Fulfulde, Hausa, Mandenkan, Yoruba and Wolof in West Africa;
- Kiswahili, Somali, Malagasy, Kinyarwanda /Kirundi/Kihangaza/Giha/Rufumbira and Luganda/Lusoga/Lugwere in East Africa;
- Beti-fang, Kikongo and Lingala in Central Africa.
- De sig nation of twenty-nine (29) Focal Points in the Member States of the African Union.
- The following priority areas of the Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions have been transformed into implementable projects:
- The harmonisation and standardisation of the writing systems of the Chichewa/Chinyanja, Fulfulde, Hausa, Mandenkan, Setswana and Wolof Vehicular Cross-border Languages;
- Capacity building for the Chichewa/Chinyanja, Setswana, Fulfulde, Hausa, Mandenkan, Kikongo and Lingala Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions;
- The training of teachers of African Languages (L1 methodology);
- The training of media professionals in African languages.
- Development of a spell-checker for the Hausa Vehicular Cross-border Language.
- The launching of the ACALAN journal (Kuwala) in January 2014.
- Development of a methodological framework for the creation of terminology and lexicography.
- The launching of a corpus building project for African languages: Fulfulde, Kiswahili, Wolof, Yoruba...
ACALAN has, among others, the following immediate perspectives:
- Finalise the establishment, and identification of the working structures of ACALAN: VCLC and focal points in Member States;
- Develop a linguistic atlas of Africa;
- Implement all the core projects and the transformation of more priority areas of the VCLCs into implementable projects.
- Continue collaborating with the Ministries of Education and of Culture of Member States in revamping the system of education in Africa;
- Continue collaborating with Member States of the African Union with a view of elaborating national language policies which will lead to a continental language policy.