African Academy of Languages
African Union

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Courtesy Visit of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL International) to the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN)
Aug 18, 2019

On Wednesday, August 14, 2019 at 10:30 am, the Director of SIL International for Francophone Africa, Mr David Wafo; paid a courtesy call on the Executive Secretary of ACALAN, Dr Lang Fafa Dampha. The SIL International Francophone Director was accompanied by Director of SIL West Africa, Ms Sharyn Thomson, and Director of SIL Mali, Mr Amagana Kouriba. On the sde of ACALAAN, Dr.Ojo Babajide Johnson, Senior Project and Program Officer, ACALAN, Mr. Kossi Abassa, Finance and Administrative Officer, Mr Aimé Bambara, Documentalist and Research Assistant, Mr Modibo Diallo, Assistant to the Executive Secretary and Receptionist, Ms Hager Ashour Aly Mohamed Ahmed, and Ms. Aldamira Crisa Lida Cabral Da Silva, Youth Volunteer, Information and Communication Technology and Finance Assistant respectively also attended the meeting that ensued.

The Executive Secretary welcomed the visitors and thanked the Director for taking time in spite of his very busy schedule to come and see him and the ACALAN staff, which he said was a very important move of solidarity, because ACALAN and SIL International in Africa have similar objectives. The ACALAN staff then presented themselves at the request of the Executive Secretary.

The Executive Secretary after the round of introduction by all attending the meeting; the Executive Secretary said that collaboration and partnership between ACALAN and SIL International for Francophone Africa is very important, because the two institutions are complementary and have many areas of common work that can consolidate this partnership.

The Director of SIL International for Francophone Africa expressed the same views, affirming his willingness to work in partnership with ACALAN.

The Executive Secretary of ACALAN then gave the history of the Institution saying that 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 specialized 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 colonization: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

He continued to say that the main mission of ACALAN is to develop and promote African languages by encouraging 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 the former colonial languages.  He added that ACALAN also aimed at identifying vehicular cross-border languages and establishing commissions to develop and promote them, on the basis that African languages will serve to forge the linguistic and cultural unity of Africa. The Institution identified forty-one (41) Vehicular Cross-border languages, out of which twelve were identified for ACALAN’s language development programme.

He identified ACALAN’s overall objectives as follows:

  1.       i.    To develop and promote African languages in general and vehicular cross-border languages in particular, in partnership with the former colonial languages;
  2.     ii.    To promote convivial functional multilingualism, especially at the education sector;
  3.    iii.    To ensure the development of African languages as a factor of African integration and development. 

The Executive Secretary identified the five following organs of ACALAN:

  1.       i.    The African Union Conference of Ministers of Culture – (The Specialised Technical Committee on Youth Culture and Sports (STC-YCS), which is its supreme organ;
  2.     ii.    The Governing Board as its highest policy organ;
  3.    iii.    The Scientific and Technical Committee as its consultative organ;
  4.    iv.    The Assembly of Academicians its advisory organ;
  5.     v.    The Executive Secretariat as its administrative organ.

He informed the Director that ACALAN has the following two working structures:

  1.     i.      The National Language Structures (NLS): one in each African Union Member State.
  2.    ii.      The Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions: one for each vehicular cross-border language.

The Executive Secretary identified the six core projects of ACALAN as follows:

  1. Linguistic Atlas for Africa (LAA) - to produce precise knowledge about the number of African languages, their interrelations and dialectical variations.
  2. The Pan-African Master’s and PhD Program in African Languages and Applied Linguistics (PANMAPAL) - to train qualified linguists, language professionals, educators and other practitioners to become specialists in African languages.
  3. Pan-African School of Interpretation and Translation (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.
  4. Terminology and Lexicography (TL) - to train dictionary compilers and terminology developers; and provide research, support, counsel services in these fields in the major African languages.
  5. 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.
  6. African Languages and the Cyberspace (ALC) - to promote African languages in the cyberspace and apply Human Language Technologies to them.

Talking about the technical and financial partners, he informed the Director that partnership and synergy creation are important for ACALAN because some institutions and organisations such as UNESCO, OIF, SIL International are also engaged in the domain of operation of ACALAN.

The Director of SIL International for Francophone Africa thanked the Executive Secretary for his comprehensive presentation of ACALAN, which he said gave him a better understanding of the institution. He added that SIL International for Francophone Africa, of which he is the Director, comprises 14 countries and invited the national Director of SIL International Mali to present their activities, who gave view of what they are involved in.

The Director SIL International for Francophone Africa then asked the Executive Secretary about the source of the ACALAN funds, and what mechanism of monitoring and evaluation ACALAN does and the nature of the Stories Across Africa project.

The Executive Secretary answered that the African Union assured ACALAN’s operational and programme budget, and said that ACALAN has been engaged in and would be more proactive in resource mobilisation as well as one of its major activities and those of its working structures. ACALAN would continue to write project funding proposals and present them to partners, especially to banks, and other businesses in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility. Concerning the Stories of African project, the Executive Secretary said that it is the only project that ACALAN has not yet effectively implemented, however the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) in South Africa through ACALAN’s member of the Assembly of Academician in South Africa, the late Professor Neville Alexandre had initiated it. Since Professor Alexandre’s passing in August 2012, the project has been at a standstill. He said that ACALAN is planning to revisit the project.

The Director offered ACALAN the opportunity of making use of SIL International’s Bloom software for literacy materials, which he said simplifies the process of developing new books, allowing local literacy teachers and other authors to create both original materials and local language adaptations of shell books. The program’s interface was designed to be user friendly for people with any level of computer experience and much of the formatting is automated for ease of use. With Bloom, authors can focus on developing good stories and other content, not on acquiring computer skills.

The Executive Secretary thanked the Director of SIL International for Francophone Africa and his delegation for the good gesture and promised to effectively collaborate in the domains that are common to them.




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