Academic Course 1

During Academic Course 1 (AC1), each student takes the three courses that are part of their chosen specialisation track.

Students in the Literacy Track take the following courses:

  • Sociolinguistics
  • Phonetics and Introduction to Phonology
  • Literacy 1

Students in the Language Assessment Track take the following courses:

  • Sociolinguistics
  • Phonetics and Introduction to Phonology
  • Language Survey 1

Students in the Translation Track and Scripture Engagement Track take the following courses:

  • Sociolinguistics
  • Bible Translation Basics 1
  • Biblical Cultures

Course descriptions and learning objectives for each course are given below.


Course Description
This module aims to increase awareness of the way that language is actually used by individuals and especially by groups. Students will look closely at how language functions both to separate communities and to unite them. As students explore language use patterns, language choices, and language attitudes, they will apply their growing knowledge of language structure and their recognition that in a multilingual society, speakers will necessarily have varying degrees of linguistic and communicative competence in different languages. Examples drawn from many different societies, languages and language varieties (with a concentration on Africa) will illustrate how language is used in complex multilingual situations.
In their exploration of language in its social and cultural environment, students will explore concepts such as regional and social dialect variation, multilingualism, code-switching, language attitudes and ideologies, pidgins and creoles, language standardisation, and language spread, shift and death. They will also apply theoretical concepts to case studies and research exercises.
Learning Objectives
At the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Describe how languages are used by different groups.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with concepts and basic research findings in the area of language use, and ability to use the relevant terminology where appropriate.
  • Think analytically about language as social behaviour and express their thoughts in a clear and scientific way.
  • Grow in respect for linguistic diversity and in appreciation for living in a multilingual world.
  • Identify and discuss the factors influencing the long-term maintenance and/or shift of language(s) in society.
  • Identify and discuss the effects of language choice, language attitudes, and domains of language use on possible language development programmes in a minority language community.
  • Find relevant resources for further sociolinguistic research, both primary and secondary.

Phonetics and Introduction to Phonology

Course Description
This module is a practical overview of articulatory phonetics, teaching the interrelated skills of recognition, production and transcription of a large variety of speech sounds, particularly those used in African languages. These skills are helpful in learning to understand and speak any language and provide the essential linguistic foundation for an adequate orthography (writing system) for an unwritten language. 

The module includes an introduction to phonology in order to give the students some basic notions.

Learning objectives
At the end of the phonetics part, the students will be able to:

  1. Identify and produce a broad range of the phonetic sounds observable in the world’s languages, with an emphasis on Africa.
  2. Transcribe sample data from various languages using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
  3. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the articulatory system and its operation during the production of various speech sounds.
  4. Demonstrate a familiarity with the technical descriptions of speech sounds.
  5. Understand the need to look at each language on its own merits.
  6. Start to hear and transcribe pitch accurately.

At the end of the phonology part, the students will be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the basic concepts of contrast, variation and distribution, including complementary distribution.
  • An understanding of the some basic procedures used in phonemic analysis.

Bible Translation Basics 1

Course Description
The course begins with an introductory unit that will help you think through reasons for being involved in Bible translation. In the first section of this course, you will learn the basics of how communication functions. In the second section, you will learn about the challenges of translating Scripture and the options that are available. The third section focuses on adjusting mismatches between languages and cultures. The fourth section deals with special translation issues like metaphors and the problem areas of names, weights, measures, and money. The final section deals with translation program issues.

Throughout the course, you will study biblical passages in depth and translate them in a variety of styles, using both oral and written drafting methods.

The main building blocks of this course are units (lessons), which come in two kinds: there are units which teach more theoretical content (but with lots of practical exercises), and units which really are extended exercises to reinforce what was taught in the theoretical units. Two of these exercise units will give you the opportunity to translate actual biblical passages in two different styles.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this course, you should understand:

  • the inferential nature of human communication and how it relates to translation;
  • how to interpret a biblical passage within its original context;
  • what is involved in setting up and running a translation program;

and you should be able to:

  • make initial translation drafts using different approaches, i.e. to develop appropriate communication strategies and craft different products for audiences in various situations;
  • identify contextual mismatches and make appropriate adjustments in your translation.

Biblical Cultures

Course Description
This module is designed as an introduction to key aspects of Biblical cultures that form a background for understanding the message and the God of the Bible. Students will look at the background to the events and worldview of the Bible.  They will be encouraged to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of the chronology and geography of the Bible as well as the socio-cultural and religious aspects of the Scriptures.  They will also apply this understanding to the translation of a biblical text or use it to compare an aspect of biblical culture with a similar aspect of their own culture.

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate the following knowledge, skills and attitudes:

  • the basic geography of the biblical lands
  • the chronology of the Bible
  • some of the important aspects of biblical cultures and worldview such as religion (both Israelite and that of the surrounding peoples), social organisation and daily life (see course contents)
  • reasons why people need to understand the background behind the biblical text
  • ways people misunderstand the message of the Bible if they fail to understand its context.
  • either:
    • some of the important ways their cultures are similar to and different from biblical cultures in important respects   or:
    • how the knowledge of aspects of biblical culture aids in the comprehension and translation of a text
  • a growing skill in looking for and using resources
  • ability to write up and present orally their own research
  • use of new knowledge to inform their work in translation, Scripture Engagement or anthropology
  • readiness to ask questions of the text and its meaning in the context of the culture for which it was originally written
  • willingness to put aside a first impression of what a text means from the perspective of their own culture or religious tradition
  • desire for integrity in their work including an avoidance of plagiarism

Literacy 1

Course Description
Participants will be introduced to pertinent aspects of literacy work in local languages.  They will gain knowledge and practical experience in how to work effectively in a mother tongue literacy programme. 

Learning objectives
Upon completion of the course, students will:

  • explain the international context for literacy in minority languages
  • list the foundational principles of literacy programs and adapt them to a specific context
  • list and describe current literacy methods and apply two of them in greater depth to a given context
  • explain the important elements of teacher and writer training 
  • describe the steps in literature production and produce an easy reading booklet.

Language Survey I

Course Description

This module builds on a foundation of sociolinguistics (the study of languages in their social context) to introduce students to the activities of designing, implementing and reporting on language surveys. Particular attention will be given to the design phase. The purpose of this module is to provide formal training in survey principles to people who will plan language surveys and do the necessary secondary research needed.

It will equip students to plan a research project that will provide an accurate description of the sociolinguistic and other factors that affect decisions about language development programmes. The module is structured on the assumption that the students who go on to plan language surveys will receive support by an experienced mentor as part of their on-field assignment.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module students will be able to:

  1. Explain why language surveys are conducted and how language assessment is related to programmes of language development.
  2. Describe the linguistic and sociolinguistic criteria that can be used to identify languages and dialects and to determine the suitability of existing literature in multilingual situations.
  3. Derive survey objectives, research questions and indicators based on an interview with the person who requests that the survey be done.
  4. Explain the main ways the ethical principles of respect and integrity are applied in secondary research and primary research with human subjects.
  5. Conduct secondary research about particular language communities using the internet and a library.
  6. Explain the methods used in language surveys to discover ethnolinguistic identity, assess language vitality, describe patterns of language use, determine linguistic similarity, identify social and linguistic centres, assess inherent intelligibility, and describe language attitudes.