Talk to Text Safaliba Literacy Activism

Grassroots Ghanaian Educational Language Policy


  • Ari Sherris



Safaliba literacy, Indigenous Languages, Educational Linguistics, Linguistic Ethnography


Safaliba is an understudied indigenous language. Approximately 7–9,000 Ghanaians speak it in a country with a population of about 26.3 million. It is one of an estimated 73 indigenous Ghanaian languages, none of which have a majority of first language speakers. Safaliba speakers are for the most part subsistence farmers, while a minority are teachers, shopkeepers, tradespeople, and craftspeople who often farm too. The purpose of this essay is to share an encapsulated history of literacy of this proud and strong people, as well as document a Safaliba activist’s resistance to hegemonic discourses in Ghanaian language policy. It is a captivating story because of its intergenerational activism, quiet resistance to government materials, and Safaliba materials development from talk to text. The paper frames Safaliba activism as an indigenous people’s late modern resistance to global pressures that are causing languages to disappear at an unprecedented rate. Data are from a larger linguistic ethnography.


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How to Cite

Sherris, A. (2017). Talk to Text Safaliba Literacy Activism: Grassroots Ghanaian Educational Language Policy. Writing and Pedagogy, 9(1), 163–195.



Reflections on Practice