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LILIEMA: Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas

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Abstract

This chapter introduces the innovative educational programme LILIEMA, a repertoire-based and language-independent method for achieving and nurturing culturally anchored literacy in multilingual contexts. Unique in kind, LILIEMA is the first programme that introduces literacy not based on a particular language but by drawing on the entire repertoire of learners present in the classroom. The flexible and adaptive design principle underpinning the method is inspired by multilingual oral and written communicative practices that are widespread throughout West Africa. LILIEMA has been jointly created, piloted and further developed by us-a team of teachers, trainers, researchers and community members from the Global South and the Global North. We introduce the motivations for developing LILIEMA, present the syllabus and teaching materials of the method and describe its implementation in the Casamance region in southern Senegal, drawing on examples from LILIEMA classrooms. We end the chapter by making a case for its potential to contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in the domain of education in multilingual settings characterised by mobility and migration.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
1
LILIEMA: Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual
areas
Friederike Lüpke, Aimé Césaire Biagui, Landing Biai, Julienne Diatta, Alpha Naby
Mané, Gérard Preira, Jérémi Fahed Sagna, and Miriam Weidl
Abstract
This chapter introduces the innovative educational programme LILIEMA, a repertoire-
based and language-independent method for achieving and nurturing culturally
anchored literacy in multilingual contexts. Unique in kind, LILIEMA is the first
programme that introduces literacy not based on a particular language but by drawing
on the entire repertoire of learners present in the classroom. The flexible and adaptive
design principle underpinning the method is inspired by multilingual oral and written
communicative practices that are widespread throughout West Africa. LILIEMA has
been jointly created, piloted and further developed by us a team of teachers, trainers,
researchers and community members from the Global South and the Global North. We
introduce the motivations for developing LILIEMA, present the syllabus and teaching
materials of the method and describe its implementation in the Casamance region in
southern Senegal, drawing on examples from LILIEMA classrooms. We end the
chapter by making a case for its potential to contribute to the attainment of the
Sustainable Development Goals in the domain of education in multilingual settings
characterised by mobility and migration.
1 Introduction: The case for language-independent literacies
1.1 Paradoxes of literacy
In most African countries, literacy is characterised by a paradox: the formal education
system, based on the teaching of the official languages of colonial provenance, is
struggling and plagued by stagnating enrolment and high dropout rates. In Senegal,
the country in the focus of this paper, 81% of children are enrolled in primary school,
but only 51% complete the primary cycle (UNESCO 2016a). Additionally, even learners
who complete primary education are frequently unable to read and write or lose the
literacy and language skills acquired at school because they have little occasion to use
them in their daily lives. French, the official language of the country and sole medium of
instruction in the majority of state schools, is only needed for formal employment,
which is an option for a minority of the population (World Bank 2018). Thus, the school
system is based on a language and associated knowledge system which are irrelevant
for most learners, while not providing them with the skills they require to succeed.
Because of the linguistic and cultural obstacles learners face at school, even those that
strive for formal employment are ill prepared for participation in the formal economic
sector.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
2
This paradox is of long date and widely recognised (Brock-Utne and Skattum 2009;
Ouane and Glanz 2010; Ouane 2003; Wolff 2016; Brock-Utne and Hopson 2005;
Alexander 2008), and has therefore yielded numerous calls for mother-tongue based
multilingual education (for instance Ouane and Glanz 2010). As a result, in some areas
of Senegal, languages with larger speaker bases, such as Wolof, Pulaar and Sereer,
are taught to some extent in their standardised varieties in primary schools, although
their use remains limited in scope and has low uptake. This situation mirrors that of
local languages in many African countries, regardless of their status as being
recognised as national languages or not. The reasons for the limited attraction of
national and local language education are multiple; a central dilemma remains that
local language education proposes a linguistic solution to problems of a political nature
(Mufwene, this volume). As long as there is no real space for local languages in the
highest echelons of the political system, formal economy and state education sector,
learners and parents will remain committed to the language that allows full participation
in these domains, however elusive it may be for them or their children to access them.
For most of sub-Saharan Africa, this language is the official language of the country, of
colonial origin.
Another problem is often overlooked: the discussion around mother tongue education
is based on the assumption that the respective languages exist as objects ready to be
used in education, and that more or less homogeneous language areas where
particular languages can be implemented can be identified. In reality, local language
education relies on the teaching of an often fictional standard variety which either is
nobody’s ‘mother tongue’ or is only the ‘mother tongue’ of the fraction of a larger and
internally diverse linguistic group, thus alienating all those speaking varieties more
distant from the selected one. This factor is compounded by the important roles played
by standard varieties in social selection. All epistemes of education in Western-inspired
formal education rely on elite closure being achieved, alongside other means, through
the creation of a standard language that is intended to be mastered by few. Even in
monolingual environments, becoming the native speaker and writer of a standard
language is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. It is naïve to expect
graduates of the underresourced African education systems to master even one
standard language culturelet alone severalwhen this goal is not achieved for one
language in many resource-rich Western contexts. In this respect, a cynical
interpretation of the status quo is to see African education systems, often analysed as
flailing, as actually fulfilling their role of maintaining national elites through their
adherence to official languages. Furthermore, the official languages are often not
taught as foreign languages but introduced as if they were languages that learners
already count in their repertoires, which is only the case for urban elites.
Additionally, and importantly, there are no homogeneous language areas on the
African continent. Mobility, migration and social exchange beyond imaginary linguistic
borders, and often across the colonially imposed borders of African states, are an old
and deeply engrained African reality (Lüpke and Storch 2013). Selecting any language
would always exclude fostered children, in-married women (i.e. women who enter this
community from another one, through marriage), economic migrants, civil servants
posted outside their areas of origins, refugees, and many others. Larger languages,
which have a realistic chance of maintaining standard language cultures, are often
associated with colonial expansion and owe their standardised versions to colonial
activities (regarding Wolof in Senegal, see McLaughlin 2008a, 2008b), so are similarly
ambivalent in terms of instruments of oppression vs. instruments of wider
communication as the official languages.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
3
This situation is exacerbated in highly multilingual settings. In Africa, not only urban
areas are highly multilingual. Rural multilingual areas, in which languages are
nominally confined to villages or small geographic areas but where multilingualism is
intense, are widespread, although underresearched and underrepresented in public
imagination (Cobbinah 2019; Di Carlo 2018; Di Carlo and Good 2017; Good and Di
Carlo 2019; Good et al. 2019; Goodchild 2019; Lüpke 2016b, 2017, 2018c; Watson
and Lüpke (forthcoming); Weidl 2018). In many multilingual areas, exographic writing
practices (i.e. writing in (a) different, typically larger, language(s) than the one(s) used
orally) have a long tradition, because writing needs to transcend the scope of the local
and connect writers and readers over great distances, therefore necessarily crossing
language boundaries in the case of locally confined languages (Lüpke 2011; Lüpke
and Bao-Diop 2014; Lüpke 2018a).
Parents and learners therefore have many compelling reasons, the prestige of the
official languages notwithstanding, to reject education in local languages. These
reasons need to be understood and respected as rational and informed decisions in
the light of sociolinguistic settings whose complexities are often underestimated by
outsiders (see Anderson and Ansah 2015; Barasa 2015; Gafaranga and Torras 2016),
rather than being misunderstood as misguided incarnations of a linguistic inferiority
complex alone.
1.2 Western solutions for African problems?
There is unanimity in scholarly research in diagnosing these factors as the ones that
turn inclusive language planning in Africa into a seemingly unsurmountable challenge.
There is now also a large body of research on the colonial origins of ethnolinguistic
groups and their associated imaginary territories, on the birth of standardisation efforts
in Africa at a time when the romantic idea of the ethnolinguistic nation state had its
heyday in Europe, by European missionaries and colonial linguists, on the resulting
linguistic misappraisal of sociolinguistic settings and on the exclusion of speakers of
non-standard varieties (Blommaert 2004, 2011, 2010; Lane et al. 2017; Lüpke and
Storch 2013).
Education planners are often not reached by this body of research in sociolinguistics
and anthropological linguistics, but remain subject to unquestioned language
ideologies that create a favourable bias towards standardisation. At the same time,
advances in language planning have been stopped in their tracks by the road block
present in the dominant imagination of multilingual education as language-based, and
hence of conceptualising multilingualism as a multitude of monolingualisms, now
widely criticised in socio- and applied linguistics (Cummins 2007, 2008; García and
Wei 2014; Heller 2007).
Language-based approaches to multilingual education turn multilingualism, especially
in small languages, into a burden and are entirely unsuited to maintaining linguistic
diversity. This holds for the richest nation states, which struggle adequately to resource
all nationally recognised languages, even if they are as wealthy as Switzerland and
only count four languages of education. It is simply an illusion that a language-based
approach will be implemented in the foreseeable future in African countries such as
Senegal, with more than 30 languages, or Nigeria, counting more than 400, alike.
Introducing standard languages would necessitate a drastic standardisation and
reduction of the number of languages and varieties prior to the implementation of such
a programme, a measure that would give room to enormous political conflict and would
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
4
result in the ironic effect that nobody’s ‘mother tongue’ would be taught a situation
very similar to the one holding at the moment.
It appears that Western solutions of language management (relying either on the
exclusive use of one standard language or on the, equally problematic, co-existence of
a small number of standard languages) are simply inadequate for the situations of high
linguistic diversity that hold on the African continent and in other areas world-wide that
have remained at the margins of European imperial linguistic interventions (Lüpke
2017, 2018c).
1.3 The true dilemma: Western solutions for what is not an African problem
If multilingualism remains a problem that needs to be regulated through costly means
in the West, it seems more promising to look to Africa itself for solutions for what
perhaps is not even a problem in indigenous practice.
The first step of such an endeavour needs to be an investigation of African writing
practices in languages other than the official ones. In contrast to widely held
assumptions, Africans do read and write, but often in forms of literacy that are not
recognised as such by linguists and education planners or even visible to them, and
that are also discounted by the readers and writers themselves. The grassroots
literacies Africans practise across the continent are old, such as the writing of African
languages in Arabic characters (also called Ajami, or for Wolof, Wolofal) for personal
literacy, religious and literary purposes; or new, such as the writing of Facebook posts,
text messages, graffiti and signage in the linguistic landscapes using the Latin
alphabet. What these practices have in common is that they are as mono- or
multilingual as their writers and readers. This flexibility entails that writers do not uphold
strict boundaries between languages, as done in standardised writing practice.
Repertoire-based writing is similar to fluid oral language use described as
“translanguaging” (García and Li 2014).
Language-independent or repertoire-based literacies are well known to scholars of
literacy and multilingualism. In these fields, a growing body of research investigates the
fluid and adaptive nature of West African grassroots writing, both in Ajami schools of
religious and literary writing and in informal writing practiced on mobile phones and
social media (for case studies on Senegal, see Lexander and Alcón (forthcoming);
Lexander 2010; Lüpke and Bao-Diop 2014; Lüpke 2018a; McLaughlin 2014,
forthcoming). Oral and reading translanguaging is being promoted in South Africa as a
means of inclusive communication flanking the standard languages of higher education
(Childs 2016; Heugh 2015; Makalela 2015; Probyn 2015; Sefotho and Makalela 2017
inter alia). However, there is no attempt at systematically integrating translanguaging
into basic literacy activities, with the exception of the innovative LILIEMA programme
on which we report here. Where efforts exist to lift grassroots writing to an officially
sanctioned form of literacy, their proponents often rely on or argue for its
standardisation, as in the case of many Ajami literacies (Ngom 2010), thus ironically
eradicating the very flexibility that makes these literacies efficient writing tools in
situations of heterogeneity with little infrastructural support for most parts of writers’
repertoires (Souag 2010).
In the subsequent parts of this chapter, we describe the setting, research and writing
practices that inspired LILIEMA, particularly in Casamance, Senegal; and consider why
the established approaches to education described above are not appropriate there.
We then go on to describe the LILIEMA method, syllabus and materials in more detail,
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
5
including examples and a consideration of why key choices have been made. Finally,
we discuss how language-independent literacies, such as that championed by
LILIEMA, can contribute to sustainable development, and identify areas for further
research and action.
2. The LILIEMA model of language-independent literacies
2.1 The setting, research and writing practices that inspired LILIEMA
Inspired by existing African grassroots literacies, we propose the LILIEMA1 model to
complement standard language-base approaches to literacy. The case study
discussed here is situated in the Lower Casamance region of Senegal. Located in the
South of Senegal, the natural region of Casamance comprises the three provinces of
Ziguinchor, Kolda and Sédhiou. The area has 1,664,000 inhabitants on a surface area
of over 29,000km2 (RGPHAE 2014) speaking approximately 30 languages. The
Casamance is separated from the rest of Senegal by the country of The Gambia, and
shares another border with Guinea-Bissau. It forms part of a zone very different from
the north of Senegal for climatic, historical, political and cultural reasons that has
suffered from a longstanding secessionist conflict led by the MFDC (Mouvement des
Forces Démocratiques) demanding the independence of this region since 1982
(WANEP 2015). In particular the Lower Casamance area that forms the province of
Ziguinchor is characterised by the following factors:
Its status as a cross-border region shaped by three different colonial powers,
and a legacy of three different official languages (French in Senegal, English in
The Gambia, and Portuguese in Guinea Bissau).
Its high concentration of frontier communities, that is, of small-scale, clan- and
family-based settlements spanning national and linguistic borders and
populated by inhabitants with high mobility and intense social ties to
neighbouring villages and regions.
Its high incidence of internal and external migration, for reasons ranging from
social exchanges, child fostering and marriage exchanges to economic mobility
and seeking refuge from conflict (the Casamance conflict and the Guinea
Bissau independence war being the most recent).
Many of the smaller languages of the area have only one village or a group of villages
as their nominal home base; these languages include the clusters of Baïnounk, many
Joola, and Bayot languages. These and larger languages and language clusters such
as Balant, Mankanya, Manjak, Pepel and Fula co-exist with a Portuguese-based
Creole (Kriolu), Wolof and Mandinka, which are also used as languages of wider
communication. Repertoires span closely and remotely related languages of the
Atlantic family, but also include genealogically unrelated languages (see Lüpke et al.
2018 for details). Every inhabitant of Casamance is multilingual, either through internal
and external migration and the languages acquired during personal trajectories, or
because of deeply rooted social exchanges resulting in small-scale multilingualism
1 The acronym LILIEMA stands for “language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual
areas”. Its French equivalent is “libre pratique de l’écrit pour une éducation inclusive dans les zones
plurilingues”.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
6
(Cobbinah et al. 2016; Lüpke 2016a, 2016b, 2018b). Marriage links often transcend
linguistic and national borders, child fostering is widespread and brings children with
very different linguistic repertoires together in one household, and ritual, economic and
religious mobility is pervasive.
Formulating an efficient and inclusive language policy for multilingual areas like
Casamance poses an unsurmountable challenge for language-based approaches. It is
unrealistic to standardise the region’s many languages, develop mother tongue
teaching materials, train teachers, create a stable learning environment and provide
the literacy materials and written environment needed to make literacy sustainable for
the many small languages with speaker numbers ranging in the hundreds or
thousands. SIL, the only major language development actor in the region, has
withdrawn literacy activities from the area. Any language choice would result in the
exclusion of a part of the local population: if the patrimonial language2 of a place is
selected, in addition to the high costs for a small target group, many of its inhabitants
will be excluded, since they do not speak this language, do not identify with it, or are
still learning it. If a larger language is chosen, the local languages become invisible,
and local culture is completely marginalised. In the area, opinions are divided on which
indigenous languages could be used in mother tongue teaching: while the most liberal
respondents are open to teaching in Wolof, there is also vocal opposition to this choice,
since it invokes the threats of northern Senegalese domination and Wolofisation that
have played a central role in the Casamance conflict. In addition, and as observed in
other African contexts, parents and learners often make rhetorical commitments to
initiatives involving literacy in indigenous languages but do not follow suit in practice,
because proficiency and literacy in the official language are seen as the main learning
goals of formal education, for the reasons outlined in 1.1
above.
In response to this complex situation, and in a team of trainers, teachers and learners
from the Global South and North in the Crossroads project, we jointly developed the
LILIEMA method orl’alphabet sans frontières (the alphabet without
borders). LILIEMA stems from the transcription practices in the Crossroads project,3
during which a team of multilingual local transcribers made thick transcriptions of
multilingual speech data4 from three neighbouring villages in the Lower Casamance,
using the official alphabet for Senegalese languages. We decided on a language-
independent transcription model rather than using the standard orthographies for those
named languages for which these are available, because this model mirrors the actual
existing grassroots literacies of Senegal. Our transcription model, just like grassroots
literacy practice, retains the variability present in speech, which is erased through
standard-based transcriptions, thus eliminating the variation that offers insight into
socially motivated variation in oral language use and that reflects speakers’ indexical
2 Named languages are connected to particular places as their territorial languages (Blommaert 2010),
often as the language(s) associated with the remembered (in virilocal societies, male) founder, and serving
to socially index this particular affiliation with a place. Not all the inhabitants of a place are ideologically
represented according to this logic, termed “patrimonial language ideology” by Lüpke (2018b). Strangers
remain linked to their remembered place of origin, and in-married women (i.e. who have entered this
community from another one, through marriage) and fostered children (and formerly, slaves and captives)
from outside the patrimonial language area are likewise excluded or subsumed under the identity of the
male head of the family.
3 The Leverhulme Research Leadership Award Project “At the Crossroads investigating the unexplored
side of multilingualism”, led by Friederike Lüpke, investigated rural multilingualism in three villages in the
Lower Casamance. See www.soascrossroads.org for details of this project.
4 Inspired by Geertz (1973), thick transcriptions here mean fine-grained, non-standardised transcriptions of
multi-participant conversations, complemented by data on self-reported repertoires and transcribers´,
speech participants’ and researchers’ perspectives on the circumstances, motivations, and intentions
relevant for the interaction.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
7
choices in speaking and writing. Most language-independent grassroots writing in
Senegal is based on French as the lead language, i.e. it employs French orthographic
conventions for the writing of local languages. Out of respect for Senegalese language
policies we replaced French lead-language writing in which most of this informal writing
takes place with a language-independent strategy using the official alphabet of
Senegal. The Senegalese alphabet shares many characters and sound-grapheme
associations with the official alphabets for neighbouring countries and therefore has the
added advantage of overcoming colonial language boundaries which are perpetuated
in informal lead-language writing in the ex-colonial languages.
LILIEMA is a complementary educational programme that valorises local knowledge,
particularly those parts of learners’ repertoires that are not represented in the formal
school curriculum or in fact anywhere in the public sphere, while also including larger
languages. In the highly multilingual context of Casamance, we do not focus on literacy
in a particular language, as this would turn multilingualism into a burden, exclude many
learners, and would not connect to the social literacy practices used informally. Grass-
roots writing spans writers’ multilingual repertoires, since they connect with
interlocutors who speak and write different languages, often not separating codes but
using appropriate linguistic resources in translanguaging fashion.
Acknowledging this flexible nature of African multilingual writing, LILIEMA is based on
the teaching of sound-letter associations that can be applied to entire repertoires rather
than being taught for a particular language. It allows inclusive literacy teaching in areas
where participants are highly multilingual, particularly in small, non-standardised
languages. Just like spoken discourse, which oscillates between more and less mono-
and multilingual contexts of interaction, and between code interaction and fusion,
LILIEMA allows the maintenance and transcendence of separate codes in writing. This
adaptivity makes it ideally suited for an educational programme that sees literacy as a
social practice that has direct relevance for readers’ and writers’ culturally anchored
literacy needs, in line with UNESCO’s vision of literacy (UNESCO 2016b).
Figure 1 shows an illustration of the method. The drawings to the left represent a chair
(eramun) and a well (ekoloŋ), words shared by a number of Joola languages5. The
drawing of a house to the right features the words for ‘house’ in Baïnounk Gujaher
(ɑdig) and Kriolu (kɑsɑ).
5 Joola languages form dialect linkages that are often only minimally differentiated in a number of
emblematic areas of phonetics and lexicon, another compelling reason for a “translanguaging” approach to
literacy that does not build separate literacies for them but allows the flexible expression of socially
significant sameness and difference in writing.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
8
Figure 1: LILIEMA classroom examples illustrating monolingual (left, in Joola)
and multilingual uses (right, in Kriolu and Baïnounk Gujaher) of the method
LILIEMA is not conceived as a literacy programme for illiterate learners. Aiming local
language literacy campaigns mainly at illiterate learners has turned them into de facto
second tier programmes not attractive to writers of the official languages, and
therefore, our intention is to develop an inclusive cultural enrichment programme for all
learners.
LILIEMA classes are taught in two levels: Level 1 for beginners, and Level 2 for
learners with previous experience of the method. LILIEMA learning goals respect the
variable multilingual nature of every-day interaction and are based on the attested
purposes of existing grass-roots literacies throughout Africa:
Level 1: At the end of Level 1, learners will be able to read and write personal
names and words for instance for shopping lists and inventories, numbers,
phone numbers, names and short phrases.
Level 2: At the end of Level 2, learners will be able to read and write personal
messages and texts (for instance text chat messages, Facebook posts and
letters). They will be able to do simple book-keeping, write personal notes and
compose longer texts like the description of local events and procedural texts
capturing local knowledge as well as stories.
Currently, we are preparing follow-up activities for locations in which several LILIEMA
courses have taken place. In order to allow course participants to practise their skills
and create tangible and sustainable outputs of relevance for local contexts, we are
organising a number of study days around topics of interest, for example on local
history and recipes for food and soap preparation. These study days will culminate in
the production of booklets that will be circulated in all the villages where classes have
been held.
2.2 The LILIEMA method in detail
LILIEMA is based on sound-letter correspondences codified in the official Alphabet of
National Languages of Senegal, which is a phonetically-based alphabet designed to be
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
9
applied across all Senegalese national languages6 (with very minor variations to
account for certain phonological differences). Rather than teaching this alphabet based
on a specific language, as in all mother tongue literacy programmes, LILIEMA
introduces the sound values of letters based on examples from all languages present
in the classroom. LILIEMA learners learn to recognise letters and their sound values
and to read and write words and short texts not just in one language, but in all the
languages in their repertoires. LILIEMA is based on official alphabets, but not on official
orthographies. It does not introduce a standard version of a language or insist on
standard spellings. Variation is tolerated, and it is expected that conventions will
develop through use over time, as they have in indigenous writing in other contexts in
Africa, for instance in Ajami writing or digital writing practices.
LILIEMA was piloted, in 2017-2018, in two villages in the Lower Casamance area of
Senegal and since then has been taught in eight successful courses in four different
villages in 2019-2020. All classes have been developed and taught by community
members familiar with the multilingual environments of their villages, under the
leadership of the authors linguists, local trainers and supervisors with extensive
experience as multilingual transcribers for the Crossroads project. Teachers from all
course sites participated in several training workshops. During the first workshop in
January 2017, they learned the official alphabet of Senegal, experienced language-
independent writing and developed their own learning resources. During the second
workshop in November 2017, and based on the first teaching experiences, the two
course levels and their syllabi and progression were determined, and worksheets for
both levels were created. In 2019, based on feedback and evaluations of the pilots, we
revised the method, including the syllabus and teaching materials and trained
additional teachers. An association has been founded and partnerships with the
Baïnounk cultural organisation BOREPAB and the Université Assane Seck in
Ziguinchor have been set up. BOREPAB was instrumental in the codification of
Baïnounk, recognised since 2005 as a national language of Senegal. Baïnounk
speakers are seen as a single ethnic group at national level, but the different Baïnounk
languages, which are not mutually intelligible, reflect the internal heterogeneity of this
group. In the codification document, which needed to demonstrate that the language to
be codified is to be written in the national alphabet, BOREPAB members therefore
presented one text written in three different Baïnounk languages. With LILIEMA, there
is now a teaching method available that reflects this internal diversity along with the
different multilingual environments in which Baïnounk languages are spoken.
2.3 Syllabus and teaching materials
Initially, the two LILIEMA course levels each consisted of 38 course units. In the
revised programme, both levels are taught in ten course units (see Table 1) which are
taught over ten to 15 lessons, organised in a way that is adapted to the progress and
availability of participants and scheduled to take place two to three times per week.
This new timetable allows for flexibility regarding social obligations of participants and
6 The Senegalese Constitution recognises a language as ‘national’ when it has been codified. Once the
codification into the official alphabet, including the separation of words, is completed and approved for a
language, it is passed into Senegalese law through a specific piece of legislation (‘décret’). 22 Senegalese
languages have currently been codified.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
10
is adapted to the seasonal flow of activities. Teaching is scheduled during the dry
season, when there are less agricultural activities, and avoids times of important
(religious) ceremonies and shared social obligations.
Table 1: Progression for Level 1
Unit
Letters introduced
Unit
Letters introduced
1
A-ɑ; O-o; I-i; B-b
6
R-r; S-s; Y-y; Ñ
2
M-m; N-n; E-e; U-u
7
G-g; Q-q; H-h; Ŋ-ŋ
3
J-j; C-c; P-p
8
V-v; Z-z; ʃ-
ʃ
4
D-d, T-t, W-w, Ë
9
Revision
5
L-l; K-k; F-f; X-x
10
Revision
The sequence of letters is independent of sound or syllable frequencies in particular
languages and does not introduce letters with the same sound values in French first,
because of the multilingual character of the method and the different sound-grapheme
associations of the three official languages (French, Portuguese, and English) used in
the cross-border region where LILIEMA is being taught. Not all phonological contrasts
of the languages covered in the pilot so far are represented, nor is this intended, as
LILIEMA teaches literacy through an alphabet, not through phonetic or phonological
transcription (see Lüpke 2011). However, if desired by learners, it is possible at any
time to use symbols used for particular languagesfor instance <ȯ> used for the
[+ATR]7 vowel /o/ in Jóola languages, or <ɓ>, an implosive part of the alphabet for
Pulaarwhich are not taught as part of the syllabus so far, as the method is designed
to flexibly respond to learners’ repertoires and existing literacies.
Four worksheets per course unit have been created for Level 1. These worksheets
introduce letters and illustrate their sound values with numerous multilingual examples.
Diverse reading, writing, sorting and matching exercises are offered on the worksheets
to create diverse and engaging classroom interaction. In addition, teachers work with
letter and photo cards and a number of props, such as shells with letters and numbers
on them to allow for a wide variety of exercise types and games. Teachers have a
separate manual explaining the exercises.
Figure 2: Extract of a Level 1 worksheet
7 Advanced tongue root.
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
11
In the worksheet exercise shown in Figure 2, participants have to write the letters that
are discussed in the unit. This helps the teachers observe whether everybody is able to
read and write them. Examples given further down the worksheet are intended to help
learners practise their reading skills and are either names or lexemes widely shared
across languages (for example, mɑɑm for grandmotherand tɑtɑ for aunt).
Figure 3: Extract of a Level 1 whiteboard gap exercise using examples in Wolof,
Kriolu and Joola
The examples in the whiteboard gap text exercise in Figure 3 illustrate orthographic
variation. The Wolof word jigeen (woman) has been recorded with one spelling only.
The Kriolu word mɑnkɑrɑ (peanut) can be spelled either with the grapheme for the
alveolar nasal [n] or with the velar nasal [ŋ]. The two spelling variants reflect deep vs.
shallow orthographic choices: <n> / [n] represents the input of regressive phonetic
assimilation to the following velar consonant, while <ŋ> / [ŋ] constitutes the output of
nasal assimilation in front of a velar consonant. This variation is not only tolerated, but
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
12
actively taught in the classroom, since learners will encounter both options in the
written environment. The superscript letters <ɑ>, <s>, <e> and <e> above the word
busaana (dugout canoe), yield the common family name Basne (in French spelling),
if replacing the corresponding letters in busɑɑnɑ.
Figure 4: Example of the first page of a student worksheet (left) with the
corresponding instructions to the teacher in French (right)
The example lexemes of the worksheet in Figure 4 are multilingual. The phonemes /ʃ/
and /z/ and their graphemes are introduced with words from Joola Eegima (gɑeʃo, to
braid) and Bayot (ɑzunguru, girl). For typing on portable devices, we also introduce
alternative spelling avoiding special characters and using digraphs instead, e.g. <sh>
for < ʃ >. The examples promoting reading skills below include several more local
languages. Exercise 4, in which participants have to prepare dictations for their peers,
is open to any language.
Figure 5: Example of the first page of a student worksheet (left) with the
corresponding instructions to the teacher in French (right) – more advanced
level
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
13
In the worksheet in Figure 5 an exercise for more advanced students is shown. The
two reading examples represent two dyadic conversations (between Musa and Faatu,
who talk about food in Wolof; and Momo and Damas, discussing a football match in
Baïnounk Gubëeher). In exercise 2, learners are asked to write a dialogue, with free
language choice. Exercise 3 requires learners to find letter sequences in the columns
on the left hand side that correspond to words in several languages on the right hand
column.
3. Contributions of language-independent literacies to sustainable development
LILIEMA has a number of immediate and long-term benefits. For one, this method
reflects the linguistic realities of learners in highly multilingual settings. Learners in
these complex language ecologies are socialised into speaking different languages
and lects based on their trajectories. Their unmarked discourse mode in many settings
is fluid and multilingual and often described as unmarked codeswitching or mixed
discourse (for example by Barasa 2015; Gafaranga and Torras 2002). The prescriptive
monolingual context of the school is at odds with these learners’ lived multilingualism.
Additionally, mother tongue based multilingual education programmes complementing
the official language context can only cater for a limited number of languages and
always exclude parts of the intended audience, particularly in highly multilingual
contexts where many small and locally confined languages co-exist.
LILIEMA allows teachers flexibly to integrate the repertoires of all learners. By using
the official alphabet of Senegal (compatible with many letters of official alphabets for
indigenous languages of West Africa), LILIEMA is compatible with more resource-
intensive standard literacies developed and sometimes taught for larger West African
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
14
languages. LILIEMA creates cultural and linguistic awareness based on actual
practices and recognises African languages, regardless of their speaker numbers, as a
central form of cultural expression and an important part of intangible cultural heritage.
Through this, LILIEMA increases consciousness of the lived multilingualism in
heterogeneous societies. Crucially, the programme recognises and instrumentalises
indigenous multilingual practice as a resource and departs from a notion of education
as development from the outside. By valorising diversity, LILIEMA provides strategies
for conflict prevention and resilience building in frontier societies.
LILIEMA is inspired by the acknowledged need to develop inclusive and multilingual
literacy strategies (UNESCO 2016b) in order to reach the Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs) in the domain of education. LILIEMA addresses the following SDGs:
SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong
learning opportunities for all;
SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;
SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and
productive employment and decent work for all;
SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development;
provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive
institutions at all levels.
LILIEMA makes all of the languages in an individual’s repertoire usable for personal
literacy, thus contributing to personal autonomy and development relevant to local
economy, the scope of SDG 4. By reaching women, who often marry into different
linguistic environments and are excluded from formal education, and fostered children,
a majority of whom are girls fostered for domestic reasons, it is central to the
achievement of SDG 5. LILIEMA reaches groups excluded from language-focused
literacy activities. LILIEMA uses local means and is training and employing local
teachers, relevant to SDG 8. All language-centred literacy programmes struggle to
cope with mobility; by reaching marginalised mobile learners, LILIEMA contributes to
SDG 16.
4. Suggestions for further research and action
We strongly recommend investment and further developing the LILIEMA method as an
alternative to mother-tongue based literacy in highly multilingual areas that is
compatible with standard literacies but that is adaptive to every linguistic context and
entirely reliant on local resources and valorising local sociocultural knowledge.
LILIEMA can be transferred at low cost to other multilingual contexts in Africa and
beyond.
We recommend evaluating the potential of LILIEMA as a translanguaging-based basic
literacy programme in the following contexts:
Hotspots of rural multilingualism and linguistic diversity such as Western and
Lüpke, Friederike; Biagui, Aimé Césaire; Biai, Landing; Diatta, Julienne; Mané, Alpha; Preira, Gérard et al.
(forthcoming (2020)): Language-independent literacies for inclusive education in multilingual areas
(LILIEMA). In Philip Harding-Esch, Hywel Coleman (Eds.): Language and the sustainable development goals.
Selected papers from the 12th Language and Development Conference. 12th Language and Development
Conference. Dakar, November 27-29 2017. British Council.
15
Northwestern Cameroon, Nigeria, the Horn of Africa, the entire Upper Guinea
Coast of West Africa, and South Africa;
Hotspots of urban multilingualism: cities throughout Africa;
Hotspots of mobility: border regions, refugee settlements and diaspora
communities.
LILIEMA has the great appeal of initiating a sea-change in basic literacy while not
requiring revolutionary changes in language policies or infrastructure investments of
great magnitude. It is ideal for achieving inclusive, culturally anchored education in
areas where resources for cost-intensive activities are not available and where
language issues are not seen as central to development activities (Taylor-Leech and
Benson 2017).
Since LILIEMA teaching is designed as complementary, it remains secondary to the
formal education systems, but nevertheless has the potential to create new visions for
multilingualism as a resource in African societies that in turn may contribute to a
radically new imagination of multilingualism and education, from bottom up.
Acknowledgements
The research presented in this paper was funded by the Leverhulme Trust through a
Research Leadership Award Grant to Friederike Lüpke. LILIEMA activities are
supported by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Impact Acceleration
Fund and through a postdoctoral fellowship of the University of Helsinki to Miriam
Weidl. We express our gratitude to the funders.
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This article investigates what is commonly called multilingual writing. Based on case studies from Mali, and drawing on a number of West African settings, it argues that in fact, not all ‘multilingual’ writing is in effect multilingual. The article proposes a two-tiered classification of types of writing, based on linguistic properties of texts and the differing perspectives of writers and readers. This analysis contrasts writers’ intentions to write (in) a particular language vs. to mobilise linguistic resources in a more holistic manner. The latter type of writing, it is argued, is better characterised as language-independent, since writers do not draw borders between what can be analysed as different languages from a code-based perspective often applied by analysts. The co-existence, spaces, and potentials of language-based and language-independent writing are examined in detail. This type of writing is invisible to language planners and often taken to be unreadable, akin to the mythical writing on the wall inspiring the title of the paper. Yet, in contexts with low educational resources and great linguistic diversity, language-independent writing presents a resilient and underappreciated alternative to language-based literacies.
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This paper addresses language vitality from an Africanist perspective. I identify central components for the paradigm Mufwene (2017) invites us to conceive: the investigation of communicative practices in language ecologies (rather than the study of a language), of fluid speech and its relation to imaginary reifications, of indexical functions of speech and language, and of language ideologies and the perspectives contained in them. I argue that the study of small-scale multilingual ecologies driven by adaptivity, rather than by fixed ethnolinguistic identities and ancestral languages, and the recognition of small languages as causally related to language vitality, not to endangerment, are crucial for a rethinking of linguistic vitality and diversity.
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The last three years has seen increased interest in translanguaging as an alternative pedagogical strategy for multilingual classrooms in South Africa. These studies questioned the validity of language boundaries, especially in complex multilingual encounters where notions of home language or mother tongue do not apply. There is, however, a paucity of research on translingual reading performance of learners from cognate languages in complex multilingual contexts. This study investigated the reading comprehension and rate of readers of Setswana, Sesotho and Sepedi in a South African township. Sixty (n = 60) grade 4–6 elementary school children were assessed through a battery of tests that were based on Curriculum-Based Measures. The results of the assessment show that there were no statistically significant differences between learners of these three cognate languages in both the reading comprehension and reading rate measures. Using the ubuntu translanguaging framework, we argue that the readers’ performance shows the possible effects of orthographic overlap and the value system of confluence (botho), which are found among speakers of these languages. Secondly, the results challenge the perceived boundaries between these languages and support earlier claims for possible harmonisation of their orthographic systems, i.e. that there will be no negative epistemic effect on the readers of these cognate languages. In the end, we consider implications for translanguaging pedagogy and materials development, and highlight areas for future research.
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Cet article présente les aspects sociolinguistiques et linguistiques d'une situation plurilingue dans un contexte rural en Casamance (Sénégal). En nous basant sur des recherches interdisciplinaires en cours, nous introduisons les langues patrimoniales associées aux villages que nous étudions. Nous élaborons ensuite le dualisme entre langue patrimoniale en tant que construit identitaire et usage fluide dans le discours et identifions les motivations de cette stratégie duale et comment elle s'insère dans les id²ologies linguistiques locales, régionales et nationales. Nous finissons par exposer les conséquences de ce type de plurilinguisme de longue durée sur les systèmes linguistiques et le défi qu'il pose pour une tradition descriptive basée sur la notion d'une langue et non pas sur celle d'un répertoire dynamique. Nous proposons un modèle inspiré par la théorie des prototypes servant comme repère pour ancrer la description de la variation et de l'hybridité qui caractérisent le discours.
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Development is essentially based on communication through language. With more than 2,000 languages being used in Africa, language becomes a highly relevant factor in all sectors of political, social, cultural and economic life. This important sociolinguistic dimension hitherto remains widely underrated and under-researched in Western mainstream development studies. The book discusses the resourcefulness of languages, both local and global, in view of the ongoing transformation of African societies as much as for economic development. It starts off by unearthing received ideologies, pre¬¬judice and cliché in Western perceptions of Africa and her languages, which are distorted by Eurocentrism and Orientalism. From a novel applied African sociolinguistics perspective, it analyses the continuing effects of linguistic imperialism on post-colonial African societies, in particular regarding the educational sector, through imposed hegemonic languages such as Arabic and the ex-colonial languages of European provenance. It offers a broad interdisciplinary scientific approach to the linguistic dimensions of sociocultural modernisation and economic development in Africa, written for both the non-linguistically trained reader and the linguistically trained researcher and language practitioner.
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Wolofal (from Wolof: Wolof language or ethnic group and ‘-al’: causative morpheme) is an Ajami writing (a generic term commonly used to refer to non-Arabic languages written with Arabic scripts) used to transliterate Wolof in Senegal. It results from the early Islamization of the major Muslim ethnic groups in the country, especially the Pulaar, the Wolof and the Mandinka. Although Senegal is considered to be a French-speaking country, ironically over 50% of the Senegalese people are thought to be illiterate in French. French literacy is restricted to the minority educated group mostly found in urban areas. Because the literacy rate in French is very small in the country, especially among older people, Wolofal remains a major means of written communication among people who are illiterate in French and who have attended Qurʾānic schools. It is used by these people to write letters, run their informal businesses and read religious poems and writings. This paper is based upon fieldwork conducted in Senegal in the summer of 2004. It discusses the orthographic system of Wolofal (compared to Arabic) and provides a sociolinguistic profile of communities in which it serves as major means of written communication.
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Despite the essential role of local, regional, national and international languages in human development, there is little reference to language planning in development aid discourse. Beginning with definitions of development aid and language planning, the paper examines how the two were linked in pre- and post-colonial times, showing how language planning scholarship has responded to the overarching shifts in understandings of development over time. While we find that language planning maintains a low profile in human development documents, we note some positive signs in UNESCO’s and UNICEF’s continuing support for language issues. We contrast this support with the World Bank’s concern with measurable outcomes. We conclude with an analysis of how the contributions to this special issue exemplify some of the tensions inherent in language planning for development in a global age.