All abstracts for our 2016 conference are now available. They can be downloaded here: Technology and Media 2016 Abstracts.




The representation of African languages and cultures on social media: A case of Ewe in Ghana

Elvis Yevudey & Nathaniel Dorgbetor

Aston University &  Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU),Norway

yevudeye@aston.ac.uk & nathanid@stud.ntnu.no


Social media has provided an expedient platform for speedy information dissemination with over 1.7 billion users worldwide. With increasing access to social media such as Facebook comes both opportunities and challenges for the (re)vitalisation of languages, particularly minority languages. UNESCO figures project that about half of the world’s languages may be endangered or die by the end of this century. This global linguistic situation informs this study where we explore how minority languages such as Ewe (a Gbe language spoken in Ghana) are ‘faring’ in the language market on platforms such as Facebook. The paper studies posts from 8 selected Ewe focus groups on Facebook with a combined total membership of approximately 60,000. The thematic areas of the study include sociocultural features such as the photographic representation of the dress codes of the Ewe people, marriage, food, and festival celebrations. Furthermore, we explore the linguistic features such as the adaptation of Ewe fonts, and bilingual practices and translanguaging on the pages. Finally, the motivations behind the creation of these Ewe groups by the administrators are ascertained. Following from Moring (2013), we adopt the ‘COD-model’ (Competence, Opportunity and Desire) originally attributed to Grin et. al, (2003) in our analysis. The COD model provides a basis for measuring the impact of media on language use. We argue that minority languages such as Ewe are represented on social media and creating translated interfaces and direct contents from the languages would contribute to language maintenance and development, and increase the accessibility to non-Ewe speakers.




Grin, F. and T. Moring, with D. Gorter, J. Häggman, D. Ó Riagáin and M. Strubell. Support for Minority Languages in Europe. Final Report on a project financed by the European Commission, Directorate Education and Culture,2003. http://europa.eu.int/comm/education/policies/lang/langmin/support.pdf. Retrieved Jul, 29 2006.


Moring, T. (2013) Media Markets and Minority Languages in the Digital Age. Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, Vol. 12 (4),pp. 34-53.


Forging communities online: Tigrinya as a globalizing resource

Chefena Hailemariam



Migrants and refugees differ from each other in age, political persuasion, religion and interests. The fact that they share a nationality and have all fled their homeland are important and unifying forces to some extent, but not necessarily sufficient when they attempt to forge a new identity in a foreign land, and to make meaningful connections with those with whom they can share a common outlook on life. Online communities such as those on Viber and Facebook are proving a powerful and therapeutic way for displaced Eritreans to share useful information and also to express their feelings about their situation as immigrants and political events back home.  These online communities appear to form along political lines, with a rigid demarcation between pro-government groups and those who align themselves with anti-government views, but also according to gender and age. I studied two online opposition groups – ESMNS, a group on Viber mainly consisting of young single men (ESMNS UK) and Assenna: a major opposition website. I  compare the kinds of information and discussion engaged in by these two communities, and explore how the Tigrinya language and its alphabet, used in these exchanges, have become globalizing resources, helping to shape the social, political and cultural life of the diasporic Eritrean community. In our previous research we investigated ‘ethnoscapes’ and how the Eritrean people were globalizing but not the state (Hailemariam, Ogbay, and White, 2011). Building on this study, I will examine how the Tigrinya language is coming to terms with the processes of globalization in connecting an emerging transnational refugee community. In addition the analysis will shed light on the movement of patterns of linguistic and communicative resource from the ‘periphery to the centre’ i.e. in opposition to the general assumption that linguistic communicative resources move from the centre to the periphery displacing African languages and cultures.


‘Selam, sisters’: reaching consensus and expressing identity in the Network of Eritrean Women Facebook group

Sarah Ogbay & Goodith White

Freelance and University of Nottingham Malaysia

hanagidu@yahoo.com      anne.goodithwhite@ucd.ie


The Network of Eritrean Women group was established on Facebook two years ago, with the purpose of empowering Eritrean women to take their rightful place in society in political, economic and social terms. This talk will study the interactions of a smaller group of women from within this network who constitute a planning committee for conferences and initiating contacts with government agencies and international women’s associations. This latter group are highly educated professional women, who have a particular view of female roles in society which they wish to engender in others. Utilising a systemic functional approach, focusing on pronouns, naming terms, transitivity, verb types, modality and lexis, as well as pragmatic concerns attached to the medium of communication such as dealing with silence and non-participation, we demonstrate how they present their beliefs about female identity, as well as discussing the gendered linguistic strategies they employ to achieve consensus around the planning of a symposium.


Using new technologies and documentation to support Nubian heritage language learners in the diaspora: The Nubian Languages and Culture Project

Kirsty Rowan

School of African & Oriental Studies, University of London



The 1960s saw the forced displacement of Nubians from their homelands through the construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. Due to this loss of their historic homeland, many Nubians resettled in the UK, Europe and the US. During this time, UNESCO organised the safeguarding of only the tangible heritage of this area of Nubia. Recently, the Sudanese government has agreed the construction of two new dams on the river Nile in Sudanese Nubia which will lead to a further mass displacement of Nubians. The imminent construction of these new dams and the subsequent predicted loss of their associated intangible heritage has motivated the desire of Nubian heritage language learners in the diaspora.    This talk presents how training in new technologies delivered to the Nubian diaspora by the SOAS World Languages Institute promotes heritage language learning. The talk also discusses how the creation of a new social space permits the language learning to be put to language use. New approaches to capacity development using technology which is financially viable are also discussed in relation to language learning through language documentation.


Identity, investment, and digital literacy: An African Storybook lens

Bonny Norton

University of British Columbia


The world has changed considerably since I published my early work on identity, investment, and language learning (Norton, 2013). Because of advancements in digital technology, there are new relations of power at micro and macro levels in African communities and beyond (Norton, 2014). As multilingual learners and teachers navigate these changing times, they need to negotiate new identities, investments, and imagined futures. Working with Ron Darvin, I have responded to new linguistic landscapes by developing an expanded model of investment that integrates identity, ideology, and capital in a comprehensive framework (Darvin & Norton, 2015). I argue that while there are structures that may limit the investments of African language-learners and teachers in digital literacy, the model seeks to illustrate the ways in which such structures can be resisted and transformed. Drawing on recent research on the African Storybook, a digital innovation promoting children’s literacy, http://www.africanstorybook.org/, I will discuss the ways in which the model can help inform theory, research, and practice in the learning and teaching of multilingual literacies in African communities.


Darvin, R. & Norton, B. (2015). Identity and a model of investment in applied      linguistics. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 35, 35-56

Norton, B. (2013). Identity and language learning: Extending the conversation. 2nd Edition. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Norton, B. (Guest Ed.) (2014). Multilingual literacy and social change in African communities. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 35 (7).


Human-Agent Interaction: When L1 Agents instruct L2 Speakers of English in hybrid contexts

Abdulmalik Ofemile

University of Nottingham


Most research in the area of listenership in Human-Computer Interaction has focused on speakers of English as a first language (Clark et al., 2015). However, pervasive computing has led to an increase in the interaction between humans and intelligent software agents (Jennings, et al. 2014) in developing countries like Nigeria where English is a second language. This has extended the boundaries of discourse to contexts including satellite navigation systems giving directions to drivers, self-checkout machines in supermarkets and intelligent personal assistants on smartphones.  This paper reports a scoping study that aims to understand user reaction to agent instructions during assembly tasks using the context of Human-Agent Interaction (HAI) to assess intercultural communication.  Ten participants were tasked with assembling two Lego models using vague verbal instructions from a computer interface and one human instructor within a 15-minute time limit per iteration. The study used a continuum of four voices comprising the interface’s two synthesised voices, one by a voice actor and another by a human instructor.  A 5-hour long multimodal corpus was built and analysed from these interactions. Participants’ nonverbal feedback suggests that there is a tendency for participants to prescribe a positive identity to the non-synthesised voice interface and remain neutral with the human instructor but recorded more assembly errors with the human than with the agent. The results will be discussed in the context of the challenges they pose for current theories of teaching and learning of English as a second language in Nigeria that are focused on human-to-human interaction.



Technology-enhanced teaching of oral English: An experimental study among Tera secondary school students in Nigeria.

Rebecca Ishaku Musa

Newcastle University



Before the mid-1990, the oral English aspect of the English language syllabus in Nigeria was taught by use of electronic aids such as audio players and language laboratories. Students then had English NS input via listening to recorded lessons. But from mid-1990 onwards, the teaching of oral English had been left at the mercy of English language teachers with diverse Nigerian L1s and using their different L1 influences in the input they provided the students, that is, if it was done at all. In a study conducted by Ufomata (1997), oral English was found not to be taught in most public schools in Nigeria, where it was taught, it was inadequate or ineffective. In this regard, a study was conducted among secondary school students in Nigeria. Three groups were tested in pre-test and post-test with instruction in-between where they were taught the same lessons using different methods as follows

Group 1 – Listening + Orthography: taught while listening to recordings of the lessons on an audio player while seeing the written forms

Group 2 – Listening: taught by only listening to the recordings of the instruction lesson without seeing the written forms

Group 3 – Traditional teaching method: taught using the normal teaching method where the NNS English teacher taught the learners

The focus of this paper is on the significant finding that the effect of having English NS input via listening to lessons on an audio player with orthographic input is more effective than using listening only or traditional teaching method.


Oxford Global Languages


Richard Shapiro

Oxford University Press



Oxford Global Languages is a major new initiative from Oxford University Press which will enable millions of people across the globe to find answers online to their everyday language questions in over 100 of the world’s languages. For the first time, large quantities of quality lexical information for these languages will be systematically created, collected, and made available, in a single linked repository, to speakers and learners. The OGL programme will:

  • Enable the development of new digital tools and resources to revitalise and support under-represented world languages.
  • Give these languages a living, growing, vibrant presence in the digital landscape.
  • Document and include living languages including their variants and dialects, truly recording how they are used today.
  • Provide an interactive community in which people can suggest new content, ask questions, and discuss language–these are living dictionaries of real languages that the community will help to build.


Which languages will be included?

This ambitious initiative includes major global languages and digitally under-represented ones – those which are actively spoken and used by large communities but which have little digital capacity or accessibility. These digitally under-represented languages and their speakers are increasingly disadvantaged in social, business, and cultural areas of life because resource in the digital world is focused on a small number of globally predominant languages.

The presentation will focus on the inception of OGL, the technology behind the establishment of OGL’s interlinked repository of lexical datasets spanning ultimately 100 + languages. It will also look at our plans for engaging with language communities in order to facilitate user-generated content.


Corporate Language Planning: Insights from Microsoft’s African Language Program


Manuela Noske

Microsoft Corporation




With roughly eight hundred and seventy-five million people in forty-eight countries and over one thousand languages, Sub-Saharan Africa is a linguistically rich and diverse region.  Microsoft offers African language solutions to its Windows operating system and the Office productivity suite in 13 African languages (including Afrikaans), and only recently released the Microsoft Translator for Kiswahili.  This presentation provides an overview of the language solutions that Microsoft provides for the different Sub-Saharan markets, together with the rationale for why these markets and specific languages were chosen, an outline of how the products were built, and our insights into which consumers use the products and the contexts in which they are being used.  While Windows telemetry data and research on the mobile consumer in Africa suggests that most people use English and French in technology, there appear to be populations in the UK and US who are adopting these local language solutions.


The goal of this presentation is to provide the audience with some insights into how Microsoft’s corporate language strategy gets defined and how language planning is done, while at the same time seeking input from the audience on possible future areas for development.