Lesson 1: Africa in Context

Assignment: Africa's Languages and Environments

The linguistic diversity of Africa is considered to be a problem for its people. For example, estimates range from as low as 800 to just over 2,000 languages spoken within the continent. In fact, there still exist some languages with no writing systems. This exercise will introduce you to the study of language and explore the linguistic categorization of African languages, including an examination of the possible causes for, and effects of, such language diversity. You will think about language's role in shaping the environment, and the role of the environment in shaping language(s).

Let's take a moment and have a linguistics chat. How many languages can you speak besides English? How many different ways can you say the word "hello"? Do you think there are any benefits to being a multilingual speaker? Are there any drawbacks to being a multilingual speaker? If you are looking to increase some of your general international phrases, check out Omniglot's Web site for common phrases - valuable and amusing!

But what about Africa's languages? How many languages can you name that are spoken in Africa? Did you come up with any of the ones listed here at The Columbia Encyclopedia's Web site? A good listing of links to further discussions on the language characteristics across Africa is also located at University of Pennsylvania's African Studies Center Web site. In order to visualize the geographic distribution of language diversity, check out University of Iowa's The Languages of Africa interactive map. General information and current news stories about Africa can be found on serveral Web sites, including allAfrica.com.

Your Assignment

  1. Choose one African country you would like to research.
  2. Research that particular African country's language characteristics, population and demographic figures, and topography/geographic features.
  3. Search for a current event that is somehow tied to the language diversity of your country.
    Think geographically about the impact of language/population/topography on the development/existence of the country you are studying and about the significant impact ANY country's culture and physical geography have on the development/existence of a language.
  4. Type up all your research findings and interpretations in a Microsoft Word document. There is no set page requirement for this assignment - your paper should be as long as it needs to be! Include a APA-formatted cover page and reference list.
  5. Submit your paper first to the Turnitin.com Inbox for "Africa's Languages and Environment" to confirm you have no accidental occurrences of plagiarism.
  6. After you have your report back from Turnitin.com, copy the sections from your MS Word document and paste under the appropriate questions in the online submission form for this assignment. The online submission form is titled "Africa's Languages and Environments"; Submission Form; it is included in the Lesson 01 folder of ANGEL. You must submit this form by the due date mentioned on the Course Calendar in ANGEL.

Remember... I am going to assume that everyone knows nothing about Africa! So your job in this course is to prove to me that you are learning something! I will look for details and evidence that you have thought about the material. And trust me, I can see through "fluff" that is copied directly from the Internet!


All responses must be uploaded in the form no later than 11:00 PM on the due date (see the Calendar in ANGEL ). Note that is 11:00 PM by ANGEL's clock, not by the clock on your computer! The submission form will disappear at 11:00 PM, and this assignment will not be accepted late under any circumstances. I have no problems giving students a zero for an assignment if they do not take the responsibility to submit by the deadline, so don't even think about trying to submit this late!

Resources to help get you started

  • Start with the links provided above on this page
  • Use content and links from previous pages in this lesson
  • Look up your country of choice in the CIA's The World Factbook

Grading criteria

Here is how the assignment will be graded. Each "category" is graded on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Everyone will start out with a score of 3 in each category, which means you gave me an average response that isn't all that inspirational and doesn't show alot of effort. A score of 1 is given for someone that hardly tried to address what is asked, and a score of 5 is saved for "wow, you really knocked my socks off" with the detail/thought/synthesis/original interpretation of information.

Be sure to address each of these categories in your paper:

  1. Introduction paragraph stating the African country you chose and why
  2. Your country's language characteristics
    Your country's population/demographic figures
  3. Your country's topography and geographic features
  4. Discussion of a current event somehow tied to the language diversity of your country
  5. A paragraph(s) on the impact of language/population/topography on the development/existence of your country
  6. A paragraph(s) on the significant impact that ANY country's culture and physical geography have on the development/existence of a language

As for your references, I am looking for correct format in APA style. If you do not have the correct style, then I reserve the right to deduct 15 points off of your final assignment grade (once it is scaled to 100%) for inaccurate documentation. If there is an academic integrity violation, I will puruse the procedures outlined in Lesson 0.

The entire assignment is worth 35 points and will be scaled to a percentage out of 100%.

How do you find out your assignment grade?

One week after the assignment is due, the form will become "active" again. You need to go back into the form and click on your submission to see your score and my comments. Again, I will be recording in my gradebook your score based out of 100%.

Need help? Watch this short movie that explains how to find out your grade!

If you have any questions...

...on this assignment, on Africa, on anything! Don't hesitate to get in touch with me via phone or email ASAP. I would not recommend waiting until Friday evening to contact me, as I cannot guarantee a response before the assignment deadline.