Access, empowerment, opportunities: Multilingualism in the African context

Access, empowerment, opportunities: Multilingualism in the African context

The ways in which we have come to understand multilingualism has changed significantly over the last 50 years. However, we are yet to reach consensus about how to best harness multilingualism as a resource for individuals, communities, and nations. With multilingualism being the societal norm Africa has much to contribute to this discussion. This stream brings together those working on topics relating to multilingual practices and multilingual ecologies, particularly as these pertain to translanguaging, transformation, policy and practice, and society more broadly. We will explore the opportunities and challenges which multilingualism presents in achieving equal and equitable engagement with cultural, educational, professional, and political domains. The stream exploits the naturally diverse linguistic repertoires of Africa as a resource for empowerment and opportunity and in this sense will engender discussion that is broadly applicable across the continent.

  1. Power, Prestige and Multilingualism

Convenors: Colin Reilly (University of Essex) and Mompoloki Bagwasi (University of Botswana)

 We are interested in papers engaging with ideas of the different ways in which multilingualism may (or may not) confer power and prestige on their users. We welcome papers that explore topics such as attitudes to different languages and language use within and across Africa, as well as work within areas such as linguistic landscapes and language ideologies.

  1. Multilingualism in Education and the Workplace

Convenors: Nancy C. Kula (University of Essex) and Joseph M. Mwansa (University of Zambia)

We welcome papers that show how medium/s of instruction and interaction are decided and managed in multilingual settings. We are interested in the ways in which schools manage multilingual classrooms and what multilingual strategies teachers and students develop. And further, how do these strategies carry over or play out in the workplace?

  1. Multilingualism, Social Mobility and Identity

Convenors: Tracey Costley (University of Essex) and Gastor Mapunda (University of Dar es Salaam)

We welcome papers investigating the role/s different languages play in social mobility and how social structures affect what languages are used by whom, when, where and for what purposes. We are interested in the effects language use and language preferences might have on identity and how identity interplays with decisions resulting from social mobility structures in relation to language use.

  1.  Language Policy, Multilingualism andEmpowerment

Convenors: Hannah Gibson & Colin Reilly (University of Essex)

We are interested in papers that engage with language policies within and across public and private institutions in Africa: (government, schools, work, family, for example) and how, and in what ways these give or deny their speakers agency.

This stream is also open for panel proposals.

Organisers: Mompoloki Bagwasi (; Tracey Costley (; Hannah Gibson (; Nancy Kula (; Gastor Mapunda (; Joseph Mwansa ( and Colin Reilly (