Box #2: Language Policy & Literacy

Case Study of West Africa

"It is crucial that linguists, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders recognize that since colonization, the role of French has evolved in Africa. Scholars can not continue to view this Sociolinguistic condition as merely reflecting the inherited colonial language or as a case of an oppressive language promoted to official status." (Alidou, 2003, p. 103).

  1. Look on map quest or some other map program and find West Africa ( Senegal , Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Mali , etc.) on the map.
  2. Review the following web sites
    2. ttp://
    4. If possible, review the website of Cheikh Anta Diop University (I am not sure it is in English) to identify the work that is happening there around language policy, literacy, and SPPA services to diverse cultural and linguistic groups.
  1. Look up and review the French Assimilation Policy and French Acculturation Policy on the Web.
  2. What is the economic and political context in which the old and more recent language policies (whether de jure or de facto) were established in West African countries? In other words, what else was going on in West Africa that made the government perceive that it was necessary to establish French as official languages?
  3. What is the status of education in the national and/or official languages?
  4. What groups have immigrated to West Africa ? What role will these ethnic groups play in the linguistic aspect of West Africa ?
  5. What about the languages of the indigenous people in West Africa ? What is the status of their language?
  6. Discuss the impact that this language policy may have on effective services for individuals from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

For the class presentation, lead us in a discussion about the situation in West Africa [Note], and the three tasks outlined in the syllabus (page 3):

    1. Identify the problem(s) in West Africa
    2. Analyze the problems from various perspectives
    3. Propose various strategies for addressing the problem(s)
  1. Alidou, H. (2003). Language policies and language education in Francophone Africa: A critique and a call to action. In S. Makoni, G. Smitherman, A. Ball, & A. Spears (Eds.), Black linguistics: Language, society, and politics in Africa and the Americas (pp. 103 - 116). NY: Routledge.
  2. Another helpful resource: Heine, Bernd (1990). Language policy in Africa . In B. Weinstein (Ed.), Language policy and political development (pp. 167-184). Norwood , NJ : Ablex

Copyright © Yvette D. Hyter May 2004