Decolonising Multilingualism in Africa: Recentering Silenced Voices from the Global South

Author: Finex Ndhlovu, Leketi Makalela

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Multilingual Matters
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This book interrogates and problematises African multilingualism as it is currently understood in language education and research. It challenges the enduring colonial matrices of power hidden within mainstream conceptions of multilingualism that have been propagated in the Global North and then exported to the Global South under the aegis of colonial modernity and pretensions of universal epistemic relevance. The book contributes new points of method, theory and interpretation that will advance scholarly conversations on decolonial epistemology by introducing the notion of coloniality of language – a summary term that describes the ways in which notions of language and multilingualism in post-colonial societies remain colonial. The authors begin the process of mapping out what a socially realistic notion of multilingualism would look like if we took into account the voices of marginalised and ignored African communities of practice – both on the African continent and in the diasporas.

This book contributes to the growing interest in southern decolonial linguistics. It reanimates important earlier discussions of the plurality of southern multilingualisms and the linguistic citizenship of individuals and communities with narratives that encourage rethinking the coloniality of language. In reminding us of the many forgotten 20th century contributors to southern decolonial scholarship, the authors accentuate the persistent circulation of colonial hegemonies.

Kathleen Heugh, University of South Australia

Centering the African experience, two world-renowned African sociolinguists push back on the language coloniality that continues to permeate the study of multilingualism, multilingual education, language policy, and language education research in the Global South. Inverting the power relationship between the Global South and the North, Ndhlovu and Makalela decolonize understandings of multilingualism everywhere.

Ofelia García, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA

Finex Ndhlovu is Associate Professor of Language in Society at the University of New England, Australia. He is the author of Language, Vernacular Discourse and Nationalisms: Uncovering the Myths of Transnational Worlds (2018, Palgrave Macmillan).

Leketi Makalela works in the Wits School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. His research interests include translanguaging, African multilingualism and African languages and literacies.


Chapter 1. Myths We Live By: Multilingualism, Colonial Inventions           

Chapter 2. Unsettling Colonial Roots of Multilingualism  

Chapter 3. Unsettling Multilingualism in Language and Literacy Education             

Chapter 4. Decolonising Multilingualism in Higher Education        

Chapter 5. Decolonising Multilingualism in National Language Policies     

Chapter 6. African Vehicular Cross Border Languages, Multilingualism Discourse 

Chapter 7. African Multilingualism, Immigrants, Diasporas            

Chapter 8. Multilingualism from Below: Languaging with a Seven Year Old

Chapter 9. Recentering Silenced Lingualisms and Voices

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