BAAL project Books for Africa

BAAL logoBAAL has started a new initiative to send study materials to African colleagues. Due to currency differentials it is very difficult to keep up with progress in academic fields in Africa. The materials will assist research, and postgraduate and undergraduate teaching.

Multilingual education is the norm in Sub-Saharan African countries, but even primary education is rarely spoken of as ‘multilingual’, or even bilingual, because the goal of the curriculum is usually for learners to gain competence in the ex-colonial language – English, French or Portuguese – as soon as possible. Research into African languages in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be very limited. Without research into sociolinguistic contexts, local language acquisition, development of mother tongue literacy and communication skills, and education through the mother tongues, any efforts to develop multilingual education are working under a blindfold.

Universities have the essential capacity – committed researchers who are native speakers of African languages – but they lack a history of research into local language development and education, and the material resources to carry out it out. Language and linguistics books written from an English language perspective are therefore still essential, but it is our aim to promote research grounded in local contexts, and reduce this dependency.

Up-to-date books on the teaching and learning of English as an additional language are equally needed. However, the contexts for using and learning English are very different from the USA, Canada, UK and other European countries where most of the research into EAL is carried out. Research into African varieties of educated English – especially oral language, the foundation of literacy – also needs support, as do translation studies, as the bridge to language development.

We work by requesting information from colleagues in Africa – their main needs in research and teaching. The following email is an example of a response received:

Dear Guy,

I am so pleased to learn of such a brilliant initiative and most of all, appreciate the fact that the books will be state of the art books….This initiative comes in very timely and if my institution is to benefit from it, it will really be great as my department has launched a new Masters Degree in Applied Linguistics this year. This is challenging considering the urgent need for an up to date bibliography….


Dr Atanga, Lem Lilian, Acting HoD, Department of African Studies, University of Dschang, Cameroon

At the same time as inviting direct requests, we are collecting books from individuals and publishers that are relevant. We have had some wonderful donations of current publications, as well as some older books that lecturers in the UK are happy to use as course readings. We then sort these to match them as closely to the needs as possible, and post them out. BAAL has generously provided a sum to cover the postage costs for at least a year.

The ideal is a book that really hits the mark – the effect can be wonderful – but the person in Africa with limited access to the internet, no means of travel, no internationally valid credit card, and living in a country that any on-line company refuses to post to, may hardly be aware it exists. This is the conundrum.

Multilingual Matters has so far been unique amongst publishers in responding to specific requests with titles from their catalogue.

SIG logoTopics that come up frequently needing assistance are:

  • Research Methods
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Multi-modality
  • Language and Language Education – dominated by ESL
  • Language Acquisition
  • Academic Writing
  • Teacher Training
  • Study of African languages and their use
  • Translation Studies

If we can raise awareness of research into Multilingual Education – in whatever context – we may provide inspiration and a guide to research aims and methods.

Annette Islei
Secretary of Language in Africa SIG, British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL)

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