Teaching African Languages

– Author: Antonia Schleicher

About Course

Teaching African Languages is part of a series of online courses developed for the National Online Less Commonly Taught Languages Teacher Training Initiative, a collaborative project of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Language Institute, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education International Research and Studies Program.  The course is designed for pre- or in-service instructors of African languages who have completed the two other courses developed for this project, Fundamentals of Language Teaching Methods and Introduction to the U.S. Educational System for Language Instructors.

The course was authored by Antonia Folarin Schleicher, with Modupe Olubyi and Dianna Murphy.

The purpose of Teaching African Languages is to expose new instructors to different issues that they will need to address and be familiar with as an African language instructor in the United States.  Participants in the course will learn about the history of African language pedagogy in the United States, and about resources for African language teachers.  Participants who were raised and educated in Africa will consider how to relate to American students.  The course addresses issues in teaching and assessing listening, speaking, writing and reading, and explores the applicability of certain instructional approaches (e.g., content-based instruction, the goal-based approach) to African language education.  The course ends with a lesson on teaching culture in African language classrooms.

Successful language teachers are open-minded and flexible in working with different kinds of students, and their different learning styles.  Remember that it is all about learning; our goal is to constantly ask the question: How can I help my students to learn the language that I am teaching them?

By the end of this course, participants are expected to:

  • present information to an audience in a clear and precise manner.
  • teach oral, listening, writing and reading skills in a language course.
  • understand the variables that contribute to Second Language Acquisition (SLA), such as your role as the teacher, the role of input, the impact of formal instruction, type of interaction, learners’ strategies, tasks, evaluation, error correction, etc.  Participants will also understand current research that informs us of what learners do  with the foreign language they are exposed to, and not what instructors think or expect them to do (in other words, the cognitive processes involved in SLA).

Each lesson follows a consistent format:

  • Think About Your Experiences (Think About Your Opinion, Your Reaction, Your Language): Questions to stimulate reflection and self-understanding, and to encourage intructors to apply ideas to their language, students and situation.
  • Observe and Consider: Videotaped lectures or interviews with African language teachers and students. Clips are contextualized with pre-viewing question and accompanied by written transcripts.
  • Read and Analyze. Readings that present new material or research findings. Some of the readings are original material written for the course; other outside readings are articles from academic journals or excerpts from scholarly monographs. Outside readings are given as PDFs for students to download.
  • Check Your Understanding: Interactive online exercises that provide immediate feedback before moving on to the next topic or assignment. Responses to Check Your Understanding exercises are not saved.
  • Final Assignments: Assignments to complete offline. Final assignments include desigining classroom activities and lesson plans, surveying your students, and learning more about professional organizations.



I would like to express my gratitude to everyone that has contributed in one way or the other to make this course happen.  I would like to thank Modupe Olubiyi who assisted me in every aspect of this course.  Modupe spent many long hours editing videos, working on some of the activities, and translating some of the Yoruba speeches.  I am also grateful to Dianna Murphy, who served as project manager and instructional designer for this course.  Dianna was very patient in working with us on every lesson, authoring many of the activities and adding some where necessary; she also edited the entire course.  It was really a joy working with Dianna and Dupe on this project in spite of all the challenges that we faced in completing this project.  Dupe and Dianna, without the two of you, this course will not have been completed.

I am also very grateful to David Macasaet for his patience in working with us on this project.  David spent many hours with Dupe and Dianna on video issues and I truly appreciate his professionalism in handling all the tasks that he did with us on this project.  Thank you, David.

There are many more people that have contributed one way or the other to this project such as Upenyu Majee who assisted me with many parts of the texts; Carla Schleicher, who volunteered her time to proofread the lessons; all the students and instructors who volunteered their time to be interviewed; Michelle Glenetski, our web developer and graphic designer, Aeree Nam, who also assisted in proofreading the lessons, Sally Magnan who assisted in writing some activities for one of the lessons; and all the staff of the NALRC who has contributed to this project one way or the other.  I am grateful to all of these people.

Above all, I am grateful to God that helped me to see the end of this project, and to my husband, Charles for his patience and support throughout the times I spent late hours in the office working on this project.  Without God’s support and that of Charles, this project would not have seen the light of the day.  I am immensely grateful for all of this support.

Antonia Folarin Schleicher

Contributors to this project are:

Initiative co-directors
Sally Sieloff Magnan, Antonia Schleicher

Course authors
Antonia Schleicher, with Modupe Olubiyi and Dianna Murphy

Project manager

Dianna Murphy

Financial specialist
Malliga Somasundaram

Graduate student assistants
Joseph Chikowero
Upenyu Silas Magee
Aeree Nam

Guest lecture
Eyamba G. Bokamba

Web development and graphic design
Michelle Glenetski

Video production and editing
David Macasaet

U.S. Department of Education International Research and Studies Program (grant # IRS P017A060016) UW-Madison College of Letters and Science and the UW-Madison Language Institute