The following are the speakers that were at the event. Expand each name to read more:

Natalie Tarr and Aly Sambou

Is the language of justice a just language for all? Comparing interpreting practices in Burkina Faso’s and Senegal’s criminal courts
French is the only official language in Senegal and Burkina Faso, even though a vast majority of the population has only a limited mastery. This study looks at translation and interpretation at the criminal courts in Saint Louis du Sénégal and in Bobo-Dioulasso, where the official language policy demands interpreting for the majority of defendants, which is (sometimes) provided through court employees hired to interpret during trials. This research sheds light on understanding under which conditions translating practices can contribute (or not) to the administration of and to an equal access to justice for all.

Natalie Tarr is a PhD researcher and lecturer at the Center for African Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland.

Aly earned his PhD in Translation Studies at University of Caen (France) in 2011. His research fields are Translation Theory, Translation Didactics and other issues related to the translation from/into national languages in Senegal and Africa.

Ndiémé Sow

In a world of linguistic multi-cephalism, what tools are needed to ensure an inclusive education?
In the Casamance region where, depending on the social environment being looked at each and every language has an important role to play, school (or the formal education system) acts as a federating organism and linguistic barometer for the young people of Casamance. In this context ‘formalising the informal’ enables us to incorporate plurilingualism as an aid – rather than a blocker – to the acquisition of knowledge. This formalisation of the informal helps to unencrypt the cultural messages prevalent in taught materials at school.
This presentation aims to demonstrate the efficacy of inclusive education for lifelong learning in the Senegalese context where several languages overlap. The ethnographic approach adopted enables the talk to uncover these multilingual strands (brought about by migration and movement of peoples) that influence learners lexical fields in addition to learners’ perceptions of the languages present in the region.

Ndiémé is a research professor at the Assane Seck University in Ziguinchor, and her research uses an ethnographic approach to understand the dynamics of interaction amongst young people in school. Her current work is focused on the construction of plurilingual resources for schools in Ziguinchor.

Nirvana Bhatia

Out of the conversation: the absurdity of not including language rights in SDG 16
Language is the gateway to each one of our basic human rights: political participation, education, healthcare, fair trials… It’s baffling that SDG 16 fails to directly mention language rights. In the post-Soviet world, however, nations are reverting to their titular languages and making strides on the international development scene at the expense of minority-language speakers. Russian-speakers suffer from a lack of resources, influence, and dignity. As several African nations also shake off their colonial languages, it’s worth delving into these examples to understand how we can better promote human prosperity and national pride through linguistic empowerment, without leaving whole communities out of the conversation. 

Nirvana is a linguistic rights consultant who concentrates primarily on international development, identity politics, and minority-language speakers with EU member and candidate countries. 

Follow Nirvana on Twitter @wordnirvana

Penda Mbaye

Strengthening parenting practices (RPP)
The RPP is a programme designed to help parents strengthen their early childhood development practices with children aged zero-six to help them succeed in school and in life more generally.
It is initiated by Tostan to help address the issue of children's failure at school: only 7% of girls and 11% of boys in elementary know how to read correctly and understand what they read after three years (EGRA 2009-Senegal).
Recent studies (UNESCO) indicate that in sSub-Saharan Africa, almost nine out of 10 children aged between six and 14 do not meet minimum levels of literacy and mathematics.
The ultimate goal of the programme is to help parents improve, both quantitatively and qualitatively, their interactions with children by leaving aside certain social norms or practices that are detrimental to a child’s development.

Penda is Senior Programme Officer in Tostan. She has 23-years experience in community capacity-building for sustainable human rights development. Since 2012, she has been coordinating the Tostan Strengthening Parenting Practices project in 462 communities in Senegal.

Peter Hare

A Teacher Development Pilot Programme in Ethiopian refugee camps’ primary schools
The presentation will examine the British Council's Teacher Development Pilot Programme that took place in four refugee camps in Assosa, Ethiopia in 2017. The programme came under the Language for Resilience initiative. It focussed on the four primary schools and involved over 200 teachers, about 65% were themselves refugees and the remainder Ethiopians, either working in the refugee camps, or host community schools. It aimed to develop the English language skills of teachers and their classroom practice. The latter took account of a number of constraints in refugee schools. The presentation will examine the various stages under which the pogramme was constructed, including the scoping, proposal, and baseline study through to the train-the-trainer and final monitoring and evaluation summary.

Peter has worked in British Council English language projects, including the Peacekeeping English Projects in a number of countries, and more recently the Language for Resilience programme in Ethiopia.

Peter Mayeso Jiyajiya

The Language of Justice in the Legal System in Malawi 
The paper discusses the language situation in Malawi’s justice system, where English is used. This disadvantages those who are not proficient in English, although interpreters are used. This paper therefore argues that unless the justice system in Malawi adopts a flexible linguistic system, justice delivery will remain an illusion to the people who are not competent and proficient in English. The paper therefore proposes that the legal system should allow the use of the language that the person seeking justice is comfortable with without the use of interpreters. 

Peter is a linguist and a communication specialist and lecturer whose research interests are in forensic linguistics, and ecolinguistics. 

Philip Hayab John

A multilingual approach to the Nigerian Language Policy: the case of minority languages in the north
The study reflects that multilingualism was strategic to the preservation of endangered languages from declining. A case in point is Hyam of north-central Nigeria, representative of the country’s ‘unwritten languages’ disappearing due to the impact of Nigeria’s language policy, which promotes English, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. Next, the paper analyses that while the Hausa language is prominent in the north of the country, nearly two hundred and fifty (250) unnamed languages in the region, are undocumented. Consequently, except a multilingual language policy is implemented for teaching and learning in school, marginal languages stand a slim chance of surviving another generation.

Philip Hayab, teaches English, literary studies, language, culture, and identity at Kaduna State College of Education Gidan Waya, Nigeria. Philip’s recent research centres on how linguistics privileges the affirmation of identity. As language expresses self, the essential focus of Dr John’s study supports the documentation of minority languages.

Qumrul Hasan Chowdhury

English and development at madrasas in rural Bangladesh: narratives of disengagement and an alternative linguistic market
This presentation, based on an ethnographically-grounded qualitative research, presents the values, beliefs and aspiration of madrasas (Islamic educational institutes) in rural Bangladesh to English as a language of development. The study shows that the madrasa community takes distance from individual economic development; interrogates the validity of western development programmes; and disengages from the discourses of English and development. The paper finds that the position of the madrasa community on English and development is complexly embedded in relation to Islam and the (developmental) roles of other languages in their lives, particularly Arabic. The paper concludes by arguing that multilingual approach to language and development can be more inclusive than one size fits all current promotion of English for development in Bangladesh.

Qumrul is a PhD student at King’s College London and an Assistant Professor at the University of Dhaka. 

Richard Compton

The Inuit language in Canada: challenges and solutions for its documentation and revitalization
Despite being an international language—spoken from Alaska, across the Canadian Arctic, to Greenland—and having official status in Canada’s northern territories, many varieties of the Inuit language are either endangered or under pressure from colonial languages. This talk gives an overview of the challenges of documenting, revitalizing, and maintaining an Indigenous language in the Arctic context, highlighting current initiatives by Inuit organizations and communities to promote first-language education and unify the writing system. Next, the talk will present two projects on language health that the speaker has been involved with. First, a programme to train Inuit mother tongue teachers in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec); and second, a dictionary project for a dialect of Inuinnaqtun, spoken in the Northwest Territories. The latter project illustrates how community members and linguists can partner together to produce a dictionary with relatively few resources and little funding over great distances.

Richard is Professor in the Department of Linguistics at University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM).


Rhona Brown

Workshop: top-down, bottom-up, carrots and sticks: exploring different perspectives on languages in education in Nepal
If, as a child, you were told your mother tongue had no value in formal education, how can you be convinced to send your children to learn in mother tongue? If most of the policy-makers attended English Medium Instruction schools, why should you believe them when they tell you your children should learn English as subject only? This interactive workshop will explore the complex linguistic landscape in education in Nepal. Participants will be asked to actively engage with policy approaches, evidence, and perspectives of a range of key stakeholders and to generate possible solutions to some of the challenges faced in languages in education at a time of significant education reform.  

Rhona is the Head of Programmes for the British Council Nepal, managing the development, coordination, and delivery of education operations.

Follow Rhona on Twitter @MsRB2013

Robert Djogbenou

Regional disparities in literacy levels of the Beninese population and its impact on economic and social development.
This presentation aims to examine regional and gender-based disparities in literacy levels in Benin using data from a 2011-12 demographic health survey conducted by INSAE and resulting in a composite indicator of literacy levels. Multi-variable analyses using cross-tabulations and logistic regression techniques were performed on a sample of 5180 male and 16599 female and have proven that there exists large regional disparities in literacy levels of men and women. The logistic regression analysis shows us that many factors – including religion, occupation, age, exposure to media – have a significant influence on literacy levels in Benin regardless of region or sex.

Robert has a Masters Degree in Demographic Studies from IFORD Cameroon, and is currently a Research Assistant at the Department of Research and Training on Population of Benin (CEFORP/UAC). His areas of research interest include education, literacy, sustainable development, reproductive health and genre.

Rokhaya Niang

Reading For All Programme: improving learning to read through national languages ​​in the early years of elementary school

Bilingual initiatives are being developed in Senegal by ARED, SIL and OIF with ELAN, but they are still very limited and the national curriculum does not include national languages.

To support the State of Senegal in improving reading performance, USAID has based itself on the results of international research demonstrating that students learn to read better in a language they understand and through a systematic and structured approach to integrating the following:

  • teaching time;
  • the language of learning;
  • texts;
  • well-trained, supervised and supported teachers;
  • skill tests

Reading skills acquired in the first language can be transferred to the second language. The goal of this seven-region programme is that, in the end, more than half of the targeted students are able to read according to established standards.

Rokhaya's bio is currently in progress.

Saip Sy and Hamidou Seydou Hanafiou

Resource package for the training of trainers in bilingual education in francophone ECOWAS countries
Several African countries have introduced teaching in national languages in the early years of schooling. These various experiences have shown that the integration of African languages and cultures in education is a key factor of success. The use of students' first language is seen as a determining factor in cognitive and affective development, but it is also an effective strategy to reduce school failure because of the sociolinguistic contextualisation of education and socioeconomic development. UNESCO has been supporting countries in this regard since 2012. Countries have requested tools for the implementation of a bilingual education policy to implement the recommendations of the African Conference on the Integration of African Languages and Cultures. In response, UNESCO has provided a package of resources that will break the false dichotomy that has hitherto been maintained between formal and non-formal education.

Saip is National Programme Administrator at the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, which covers seven ECOWAS countries.

Hamidou is the Coordinator Initiative ELAN-Africa of the International Organisation of La Francophone (IOF). The project aims to contribute to the improvement of the quality and efficiency of primary education in French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa through the promotion of the joint use of African languages and the French language in primary education.

Serigne Ndiaye

Interpreting in national languages in a multilingual context: an inclusive development lever. The case of Senegal's National Assembly
This presentation focuses on local language interpretation in Senegal’s National Assembly to assess its impact on development. What is the impact of interpreting indigenous languages when it comes to communication between the governors and the governed in a multilingual space, such as Senegal? There is also a question of assessing its impact on citizen participation and inclusion, which are necessary conditions for achieving any development objective, including the SDGs. This presentation also seeks to determine the extent to which interpretation in national languages can contribute to the strengthening of social justice which is a sine qua non condition for lasting peace in a multilingual context.

Serigne has a BA in English studies from Dakar’s UCAD and an MA in Conference interpreting from the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters, University of Buea.

Seyyed-Abdolhamid Mirhosseini

“In any tongue”: reflections on multilingualism and education in Iran today
This presentation discusses two aspects of the issue of language dominance in Iran. On the one hand, local languages are being increasingly pushed back by the official national language of Farsi. On the other hand, the national language itself is increasingly challenged by the spread of English worldwide. In this context, the presenter argues that the language condition of Farsi within the global context is an important aspect of the concern for locally-rooted, but high-quality and inclusive learning opportunities in this country. Three actual policy (implementation) topics in Iran are illustrated: 1) a hardly-successful attempt at improving the language condition of Farsi through coining equivalents for foreign lexical items; 2) a relatively successful experience of elevating the status of local varieties through local-language media programs; and 3) the ongoing challenge of the global dominance of English and the sociocultural implications of its widespread teaching in countries like Iran.

Seyyed-Abdolhamid Mirhosseini is an Assistant Professor at Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran. His research areas include sociopolitics of language education, qualitative research methodology, and critical studies of discourse in society.

Shannon T. Bischoff and Mary Encabo

The SDGs and language: lessons for the UN from the US
The organiser’s report for the 2016 Language and the UN working group annual symposium held at the UN in New York, reflects the overwhelmingly concerns and criticisms participants and organisers expressed in response to a lack of meaningful reference to language in the UN’s formalisation and articulation of the SDGs and the very serious challenges this raises for the SDGs (Marinotti 2016). While many may have viewed this situation as a setback, we argue it is quite possible to view it as an opportunity to shape language policy and planning in regards to the SDGs.

Shannon is Associate Professor of Linguistics at Purdue University Fort Wayne. His work has focused on endangered and minority languages in the US from various linguistic perspectives. 

Mary is a graduate student at Purdue University Fort Wayne. She received her MSEd in International Educational Development from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Simon Etherton

Linguistic challenges of internationalisation in the Ukrainian Higher Education context
This interactive presentation draws on findings from British Council research into Higher Education in Ukraine that has been conducted over three years in 15 universities and published in 2017. The focus will be on the choices and decisions Ukrainian universities are taking regarding languages at a time of ongoing conflict with Russia and aspirations of European integration and internationalisation. Underpinning linguistic decision making in universities are a number of complex factors related to politics, economics, and the traditional underlying construct of philology (the science of language systems).

Simon has been involved in teaching and teacher education for over 30 years in contexts as diverse as India, Oman, Europe, and the South Pacific, more recently managing large scale teacher development projects. Areas of professional interest include initial literacy, practitioner research, and teacher knowledge.

Stephen Kelly

‘My first step’: language learning, public discourse, and a just peace in Syria and the global Syrian community.
English-language training for Syrians displaced by conflict will increase a sense of cohesion and national identity and purpose among Syria’s extranational community and may ultimately contribute to the establishment of a just peace in Syria. This will come about because English language skills will afford refugees access to expertise in the form of further education and development and socio-political concepts that are current in global discourse. English language training is an important step in the journey to fulfil potential. English is seen as empowering through affording learners access to educational programmes and career paths that would enable them to participate meaningfully in Syrian society.

Stephen is an EFL trainer with the British Council in Jordan. He has specialized in teaching academic skills to aspiring adults preparing for entry into Higher Education and in teaching communication skills to professionals.

Tony Capstick and Fiona Robertson

Language for Resilience for IDPS, refugees and returnees in Iraq: English language training for multilingual, multi-ethnic and mobile communities
In Language for Resilience project, the British Council works in Iraqi Kurdistan with the NGO Mercy Corps to give young people English language classes as part of a Life Skills course through informal education. Host community, internally displaced people, and refugees attend these classes in youth centres. We explore the relationship between language and resilience and the opportunities language learning interventions provide. 

Tony is a Lecturer in TESOL and Applied Linguistics. His research interests include teacher development, particularly in multilingual contexts and resource-low environments, and literacy. 

Fiona is qualified as a secondary teacher in Scotland, but worked in Italy for many years, teaching in schools, including SEN, and then universities. She has been working for the British Council in the Middle East since 2011, specifically working with teachers in challenging environments in Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq.

Vuyokazi Nomlomo

Multilingualism and biliteracy: pathway to language transformation and innovation in South African universities
This presentation deals with some of the innovations taking place to support students’ epistemological access to learning by promoting multilingualism and multiliteracies in one South African institution. The institution introduced the use of the students’ home languages to support the teaching and learning of primary school science to pre-service teachers in preparing them to teach in linguistically diverse school contexts. Guided by the notion of social justice discourse and biliteracy in Higher Education, the talk presents student teachers’ perceptions and experiences of language practices and access to learning in South African Higher Education.

Vuyokazi has published widely in the areas of language policy practices in basic and Higher Education, with a special focus on promoting the use of African languages in education. She is currently involved in projects that promote early literacy development in African languages in South African schools.

William Savage

Facilitated advocacy for sustainable development: an approach and its paradoxes
Facilitated advocacy is an approach to conflict-transformation that enables people to collaborate equitably as they identify changes for policy and practice. Its purpose is for communities to advocate for improvements in their circumstances and to raise awareness of justice and rights issues. The presentation describes facilitated advocacy and explains the centrality of communicating across languages to its methods. Insights are drawn from action-research cases in African and Asian countries, involving poverty alleviation, policy change, women’s entrepreneurship, and disaster recovery. 

William is an organizational and community development facilitator, working as an independent consultant and formerly on the faculty of the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand.

Yettou Camara

Education and training in Senegal: Towards a better approach to languages for development
This presentation focuses on the consideration of Senegalese languages in the educational sphere for children aged three to 11 years old. The policies pursued in this vein will be explored, including their successes and their limits, all in an effort to propose a strategy for the global and progressive integration of national languages. This strategy will include an informative component that privileges exclusivity to source languages in the preludes to the fundamental cycle and then to French bilingualism and national languages from the elementary level in order to avoid disruptions in practices and preserve the child’s cultural and language identity.

Yettou is a researcher in language and communication sciences and a consultant in Communication and Mediation.

Zubeida Desai and Lizzi O. Milligan

Write or skryf but don’t bhala: the invisibility of African languages in formal education
Language remains an invisible factor in current discourses on education, such as SDG4.  This usually results in global languages like English playing a dominant role in education. We argue that languages develop through use, and the more we start using local languages the more they will develop, thereby opening doors for learners hitherto excluded from accessing knowledge as they were not proficient in the language of instruction. We need to desist from binary thinking: it is not a case of access to a dominant language OR a local language, but rather to a dominant language AND a local language/s. Languages open doors. The more languages we speak, the richer we are.  

Zubeida has served on numerous panels to the post-apartheid government on language policy matters. She has published widely on language in education policy. 

Lizzi, University of Bath, is interested in language of instruction policies and how they relate to issues of equity and quality for disadvantaged learners.