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Thoughts from the ASA Distinguished Africanist Award Winner (2013)

Allen Isaacman, PhD

Regents Professor of History, Universitsy of Minnesota
Extraordinary Professor,  University of Western Cape


I am deeply honored to be selected for the ASA Distinguished Africanist Award. The African Studies Association and all of you mean so much to me. It is humbling to be in the company of such distinguished scholars as:

My former teacher, advisor and long-term friend, Jan Vansina. Jan’s pioneering research inspired generations of scholars and opened up so many areas of research. Without his support at critical junctures in my graduate career, I doubt that I would have completed my Ph.D., and I certainly would not be the scholar I became.

Training in Less Commonly Taught Languages for the 21st Century

Fallou Ngom, PhD

Associate Professor of Anthropology Director, African Language Program  Boston University
Board Member of the African Studies Association


The distinction between language learning and acquisition in the field of applied linguistics is not fortuitous. While the former is construed as artificial, the latter is understood as natural and deeply embedded in the socialization process. From the times of the Grammar Translation Method, the Silence Way, the Audio-lingual Method, to our era of the Learner-centered Communicative Teaching Approach and Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL), the central challenge in language teaching and learning remains the same. It is about how to make the artificial learning experience mirror the natural acquisition process so that learners gain knowledge of the language and culture in ways that mirror the native speakers’ experience. Put in another way, the age-old challenge in language teaching and learning has been about how to make the classroom mimic the target language context in which naturally occurring language is entwined with the local culture.

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