Rethinking Language Use in Digital Africa: Technology and Communication in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited by: Leketi Makalela, Goodith White

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Multilingual Matters
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234mm x 156mm
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This book challenges the view that digital communication in Africa is limited and relatively unsophisticated and questions the assumption that digital communication has a damaging effect on indigenous African languages. The book applies the principles of Digital African Multilingualism (DAM) in which there are no rigid boundaries between languages. The book charts a way forward for African languages where greater attention is paid to what speakers do with the languages rather than what the languages look like, and offers several models for language policy and planning based on horizontal and user-based multilingualism. The chapters demonstrate how digital communication is being used to form and sustain communication in many kinds of online groups, including for political activism and creating poetry, and offer a paradigm of language merging online that provides a practical blueprint for the decolonization of African languages through digital platforms.

This is a timely and welcome addition to the burgeoning body of scholarship on language and communication in times of crises. It draws our attention to the importance of digital literacies and e-learning platforms in the communication of critical health information in marginalised multilingual communities. Measured in its aspirations yet far-reaching in policy implications, this volume deserves a space on the bookshelf of any serious scholar or student of applied and educational linguistics.

Finex Ndhlovu, University of New England, Australia

Makalela and White have assembled a timely and powerful volume that addresses the global reliance on digital communication. The multimodal studies from Sub-Saharan Africa illustrate the disrupting power of technology to break down linguistic borders around African languages imposed by colonization, and to empower speakers to translanguage and create connections across the diaspora.

Tatyana Kleyn, The City College of New York, CUNY, USA

This book breaks new ground in addressing how African languages and cultures are influenced and changed in digital communication. It explores multilingual practices in digital spaces and the use of digital technologies for performing arts. This is a must-read for anyone interested in digital communication in Africa and the diaspora.

Felix K. Ameka, Leiden University Centre for Linguistics, The Netherlands

Leketi Makalela works in the Wits School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. His research interests include translanguaging, African multilingualism and African languages and literacies.

Goodith White is Senior Research Fellow, University of Nottingham, Malaysia. Her research interests include language use in Africa, language pedagogy and the use of technology in political and educational contexts.


Part 1: Multilingual Practices

1. Leketi Makalela: Multilingual Literacies and Technology in Africa: Towards Ubuntu Digital Translanguaging

2. Epimaque Niyibizi, Cyprien Niyomugabo & Juliet Perumal: Translanguaging in the Rwandan Social Media: New Meaning Making in a Changing Society

Part 2: Linguistic and Cultural Maintenance

3. Elvis ResCue & G. Edzordzi Agbozo: Creating Translated Interfaces: The Representations of African Languages and Cultures in Digital Media

4. Kirsty Rowan: Mdocumentation: Combining New Technologies and Language Documentation to Promote Multilingualism in Nubian Heritage Language Learners of the Diaspora

Part 3: The Effects of Communication Outside Africa

5. Sarah Ogbay & Goodith White: A Network of Anger and Hope: An Investigation of Communication on a Feminist Activist Facebook Website, The Network of Eritrean Women (RENEW)

6. Bonny Norton: Identity, Language and Literacy in an African Digital Landscape

7. Susanna Sacks: Networked Poetics: WhatsApp Poetry Groups and Malawian Aesthetic Networks

Part 4: Language Change

8. Abdulmalik Yusuf Ofemile: Human–Agent Interaction: L1-mode Intelligent Software Agents Instructing Nigerian L2 Speakers of English During Assembly Tasks


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