Every once in a while one needs an excuse to visit the city of Grahamstown. Attending CLASA 2017 (Conference of the Language Associations of South Africa) created this opportunity to be surrounded by beautiful architecture and picturesque Eastern Cape scenery. Rhodes University, nestled within these surroundings, makes for the perfect conference venue.
Five language organisations joined forces to present their research innovations and resources. The end result was a well-organised conference supported by helpful officials, blended with thought-provoking presentations on African languages and language-related research. Top-notch academics were granted the opportunity to share their research, which contributed to the main conference themes of multilingualism and transformation. Language practitioners and researchers gained valuable insights from presentations on linguistics, language policy planning, language teaching, and lexicography.
Conference-goers can choose among diverse themes, and symposia for special interest groups. First-time delegates are usually advised to attend as many presentations as possible. However, if one seeks to gain a better understanding of the broader landscape of language research, one should join presentations across different themes. For instance, it is exciting to see how digital technologies are used to mine data enabling researchers to discern trends among language users. In the past, researchers had to calculate and count lexical items manually, but now digital technologies enable them to produce meaningful data at the touch of a button.
Acting in the best interests of students and learners…
Personally, I was able to expand the scope of my research and practice owing to the input that I got from more experienced individuals and I certainly benefitted from being exposed to innovative ideas and networking with like-minded colleagues. In the words of Professor Tobie van Dyk, editor of the Journal for Language Teaching:
… our task is to balance the scales of our teaching and research practices. We do this by occupying ourselves with reflecting on whether we are acting in the best interests of the students and learners that we teach.
Professor Tobie van Dyk
At CLASA 2017, we had the opportunity to do just this!
Zander Janse van Rensburg
CAPLP Short Courses- and Writing Center Manager
Lecturer in Philosophy
North West University