One of the objectives of higher education is for students to express ideas coherently in writing. In the university students are usually expected to write in a way that reflects the training they have received. At the postgraduate level, we are expected to conduct research and present data with a certain degree of maturity in language use and writing style. Academic writing therefore comes in handy as the course that helps to train students in this project. In the Department of English at ENS Yaoundé, Professor Daniel Nkemleke teaches academic writing with a lot of assiduity and attention. The classes are usually very interactive and spiced with variety, as the professor exposes us to sample texts from different academic genres (e.g. research articles, book blurbs, dissertation excerpts, posters, abstracts). In addition, he created a forum for us to interact with Neele-Frederiche Mundt, a PhD student-in-resident at ENS from the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany. We have learned many things about academic writing conventions from her input, including anecdotes from her experience in Germany about academic writing, and student-professor relationship. To say the least, the 14-week academic writing lectures have been very enriching for us.
As novices in the field of research, and as teachers-to-be, the importance of this enriching course content cannot be overemphasized. In fact, the course lays a solid foundation for would-be teachers to grasp basic notions like hedging, signposting, and academic humility, which will eventually help us to teach students different ways of approaching specific text-types, as the case may be. Rather than merely brooding in the dark like most new brooms in the domain of research do, we have been exposed to writing conventions, which we believe will help consolidate our research presentation skills. Bearing all these in mind, it will not be an overstatement to say that the Academic Writing lessons we have received have prepared us to face the academic world, at least with a degree of confidence.
Above all, the Network Centre for Academic Writing Excellence, which we constantly visit to provide us with additional resources and motivation, including networking ideas and opportunities. Although we have learned a lot for this course, we regret that the time allocated for it is not enough. Consequently, we believe that if more time is allocated for this course, future students at ENS will even derived the most benefit than we have done.
I started exchanging with Prof. Daniel Nkemleke lately and I would like to acknowledge that it has been a very enriching experience. As a junior scientist in Contemporary American Literature, I have severally needed guidance when I think of paper or a project. Prof. Nkemleke has always been available to provide the much-needed mentoring and editorial support. His useful remarks, criticisms and suggestions have been a significant contribution to my recent projects that lumps Theatre and Performance, Language and Cultural Policy Studies, together. The idea of his network for working together with students and colleagues at postdoc level is a timely asset for the department and beyond.
Professor Augustin Simo Bobda is one of the most authoritative voices in research on Cameroon English, having published extensively in this area and beyond. But he is also one of the architects of the Corpus of Cameroon English Project (CCE-P), because he established the first international link with Chemnitz University of Technology with his first visit in October 1995, accompanied by David Tiomajou, who at the time was working with me to build the database.
The Chemnitz visit, funded by the DAAD, was indeed the initiative of Professor Josef Schmied, who had just established a new Department of English at the Chemnitz University of Technology. Professor Simo and David Tiomajou took along with them some text of the new CCE-P, which we had started earlier on under the academic supervision of Antoinette Renouf then in John Sinclair’s COBUILD Research Group at Birmingham University.
The visit of Professor Simo Bobda to Chemnitz set the stage for my own relationship with Professor Schmied, because 12 years after I got a Humboldt grant to refine the Cameroonian corpus. From then I had the opportunity of another grant (Fulbright in the US) to lay a blue print for a spoken component, which Professor Samuel Atechi took over and worked extensively on during his own Humboldt grant in Chemitz.
In July 2015 we were able to organise an International Symposium, this time on an applied aspect of corpus building, namely academic writing. This event brought Professor Schmied and many others from Nigeria, Ghana, and Tanzania to Cameroon.
I am proud to share with you some of the images of this symposium, and of course some old photos we have had with Professor Simo Bobda over the years (e.g. my own PhD defence in 2003 where he was an examiner, his participation at the symposium event, reception of international guests at his home—one of the series of post-symposium events, and an academic event in the University of Yaoundé 1 many years back.
New joint-research project with TU Chemnitz
During this research stay in TU Chemnitz (May-June 2016), we finalized a research group linkage project which should take our collaboration into the future. The new project involves 5 junior scientists (4 from Cameroon and 1 from Germany), as well as many senior academics based in Cameroon, in a series of research seminars and academic exchanges. There are a significant number of potential post-doctorate applicants for Humboldt scholarship in Cameroon. We want to work with these junior scientists within a framework of a group so that they are able to submit applications for the Humboldt scholarship.
Participation in academic life at TU Chemnitz
I participated in 2 international academic events organized at TU Chemnitz and presented a paper in a departmental lecture series, CASE 7. The first conference on “Crisis, Risks and New Regionalism in Europe II: Emergency Diasporas and Borderlands” took place from June 1-5 at Altes Heizhaus. This was a DAAD funded conference organized by the department of Intercultural Studies. The second one was the “1st Chemnitz/Dresden Corpus Linguistics & Digital Humanities Conference” organized by the department of English Language & Linguistics on July 18. On July 13, I presented a paper entitled: “Tertiary Academic Writing in Cameroon English in Comparison to Native English: Exploring Quantitative and Qualitative Patterns”. I discussed academic collaboration and publication with Dr Renata Povolna of the Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic, who also presented a paper entitled: “Cross-cultural Analysis of Conference Abstracts”. We also had very fruitful academic discussions with the Nigerian participant at the event: Professor Alexandra Esimaje of the Benson Idahosa University, Benin City Nigeria.
Overall, I had the privilege to contribute to students’ research from BA to PhD. Here are some examples. (1) Gabriela Cosmina (TU Chemnitz): She is working on a BA thesis on the writing of dissertation introductions by Cameroonian students. Her study is based on a corpus of students’ academic writing in Cameroon which I had compiled. (2) Adeiza Isiaka (Lagos, Nigeria): He is completing a PhD thesis on the Nigerian English vowel. (3) Jacinta Sarpong Edusei (Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana): She is completing a PhD thesis on hedging in Ghanaian academic writing.
My daughter, Fanyi Joy Nkemleke, and I undertook a number of cultural tours in Germany. We attended the Annual General Meeting organized by the Humboldt Foundation in Berlin from 6-8 of July and also travelled to Freiberg for a cultural tour. Back in Chemnitz, we attended a number of club activities organized by Chinese, Albanian and Cameroonian students studying here at the university. We witnessed many activities (Opera, dance etc.) downtown Chemnitz on week-ends.