Multilingualism, development and education

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Linguistics

Module overview

All of Africa and many regions of Asia are thickly multilingual. This module introduces students to key topics of multilingualism in Africa and Asia, covering precolonial and continuing indigenous multilingual configurations, and including present-day multilingual settings which have been transformed by the introduction of colonial languages and language policies. Based on a broad range of rural and urban situations and addressing oral and written language use in different media, the module enables students to gain a deep understanding of the diversity of multilingualism in different areas, and to analyse the impact of these differences on ideas of language and identity and their relation to language use as well as to the scope and co-existence of different languages. Particular emphasis will be placed on the investigation of language policies and language in education and the role of Eurocentric, essentialist ideas of linguistic identity in these fields, and on innovative models for multilingual education originating in the Global South. The place of language and multilingualism for development will receive equal attention. We will address the neglect of language issues in development initiatives and development goals (for instance the Sustainable Development Goals), appraise their critiques and assess new models aiming at integrating language and local perspectives on multilingualism and the roles and functions of language(s) into development activities.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Learning Outcomes

After completing the module students will:

  1. understand in broad terms the characteristics of different African and Asian multilingual settings
  2. demonstrate knowledge of typologies of multilingualism and the ability to apply them to new situations
  3. be able to appraise the different roles language have for indexing identity in them
  4. have grasped differences between precolonial and (post) colonial education systems in terms of multilingualism management
  5. have a deep understanding of the difference between standard-based ideas and uses of language and (trans)languaging
  6. have analysed the scope for language in development based on the Sustainable Development Goals
  7. be able to assess development activities according to how thy integrate issues of language and multilingualism


Two hours' contact time each week.

Scope and syllabus

  • a range of multilingual settings in Africa and Asia and their characteristics
  • a typology of multilingual settings, including di- and polyglossic and egalitarian/small-scale ecologies
  • the diverse relationships between language, identity and language use in them
  • the role of language in precolonial education and an overview of (post)colonial language policies
  • multilingual models of education based on standard languages and so-called multilingual mother-tongue-based education
  • (trans)languaging models for oral and written language use in education developed in the Global South
  • the Sustainable Development Goals and the importance of language for them
  • models for integrating language issue and multilingualism into development activities and development communication

Method of assessment

  • Written two-hour exam, worth 60% of the total mark for the module
  • Oral presentation, circa ten minutes in length. 40% of the total mark for the module
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules