African Academy of Languages
African Union

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The African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) story
Dec 18, 2018

African Academy of Languages, ACALAN is a specialized arm of the African Union, AU established in 2001 with the sole objective of fostering Africa’s integration and development through the promotion of the use of African languages in all spheres of life in Africa.

Since its formation, the Academy has done a lot to advance the cause of African languages, but one may wonder, what actually informed the decision to establish ACALAN?

Africa, like the developed nations of the world was in dire need of peace and sustainable development but this has eluded her for various reasons like tying knowledge generation exclusively to the use of western knowledge and language, the more travelled and accomplished African elites who should have helped the local communities build capacity and increase productivity acquired their knowledge in foreign languages hence communication with the locals was a problem.

ACALAN was therefore established to develop and promote the use of African languages as a means of African integration and development. To achieve this mandate, ACALAN came up with six core projects, viz: The Linguistic Atlas of Africa; The Pan-Africa Master’s and PhD Program in Applied Linguistics (PANMAPAL); Stories Across Africa; African Languages and the Cyberspace; The Pan-African Centre for Interpretation and Translation and The Terminology and Lexicography project.

The number of languages spoken across Africa has always been subject to speculation, no officially agreed figure, the Linguistic Atlas project seeks to solve this conundrum. It seeks to establish the precise number of African languages spoken in the continent and their variation, to enable language planning policies for multilingual education and promote socio-economic development and African integration.

The PANMAPAL program started in 2006 with centres in Cameroon, Ethiopia and South Africa and seeks to train linguistics and language professionals to become experts in African languages.

Stories Across Africa project is targeted at producing anthologies of stories for children in their languages. Old and new stories are being collected written, re-written, translated and illustrated for modern day African children.

The Terminology and Lexicography project seeks to empower African languages and reinforce the process of harmonization of the concepts, provide a unified methodical framework for the development and usage of terminologies in African languages.

There was an obvious need to build up national languages in order to make them working languages across Africa. The Pan-Africa Centre for Interpretation and Translation was instituted for this purpose. To ensure efficacy in communication and mutual understanding in cross border languages.

While a lot have been achieved in the quest to develop and promote the use of African languages, it is important to know that ACALAN cannot do it all by itself. African Heads of state and government, policy makers, organisations, men and women of goodwill and Africans in general must commit and be invested in this project as it requires funding and expertise. All hands must therefore be on deck till we see African languages well and truly developed.


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