I am learning your tongue, you are learning my tongue, we are understanding each other, tomorrow belongs to us, Ivory Coast

  • Date published:
    9 March 2015
I am learning your tongue, you are learning my tongue, we are understanding each other, tomorrow belongs to us

Programme Overview

Programme Title I am learning your tongue, you are learning my tongue, we are understanding each other, tomorrow belongs to us. (J'apprends ta langue, tu apprends ma langue, nous nous comprenons, demain nous appartient)
Implementing Organization NGO Savoir Pour Mieux Vivre (SA.PO.MI.VIE)
Language of Instruction Official languages and up to 70 local languages
Funding Private sector and self-financing
The group Librairie de France provides financial support for the Quinzaine des langues maternelles, editors Livre Sud publish literacy and post-literacy books in French and local languages
Association Régionale d'Expansion Économique de Bonoua (AREBO) supplies resource people for conferences
Memel Foté Foundation makes their conference room available to the NGO's activities.
Programme Partners Ministry of Culture and Francophonie
National Ministry of Education
Group Librairie de France
Livre Sud Publishing (Edilis)
Institute of Applied Linguistics
International Society of Linguistics
Memel Foté Foundation
NGO Heart of Women
Association of Regional Economic Expansion Bonoua (Arebo)
Cooperative Rehoboth
Self-service Literacy and Non-formal Education (SAA / ENF)
Bible Society of Côte d'Ivoire
Annual Programme Costs CFA 3,500,000 (US$ 7,200). Programme Cost per Learner: CFA 20,000 (US$ 40)
Date of Inception 2000

Country Context and Background

Côte d'Ivoire is a developing country in Western Africa. In 2013 the Human Development Index for Côte d'Ivoire stood at 168 out of 187 positioning it in the low human development category (UNDP, 2013). Female participation in the labour market is 51.8 percent in comparison to 81.2% for men (UNDP, 2013).

While French is the only official language, the country has a rich linguistic diversity with over 70 different languages. While there may be indications of change, French is the sole language of instruction in the country's eductation system. Part of the diversity in languages is due to a long history of immigration with figures from 1999 indicating 30-35% of the population being foreign-born, mainly from Burkina Faso, Mali, France, Guinea, Lebanon, Syria and other neighbouring West African countries (Djité, 2000). However with 52% of the population living in urban areas (UN Data, 2012), less people are communicating in their mother tongues, considering their future chances to be greater if they master the official language (Djité, 2000). Out of the over 70 languages currently in use, only 17 have more than 100,000 speakers (INS, 2013).

Adult literacy levels in Côte d'Ivoire stand at 56% globally and 47% for women. This represents 5.4 million adults, including over 3.2 million women, lacking basic literacy skills.

Programme Overview

Savoir Pour Mieux Vivre (SA.PO.MI.VIE) is a non-profit, non-political and non-union organisation created in 2006 and registered as an NGO in Côte d'Ivoire. Taking as a motto Knowledge is for a better life, the organization brings together people from all walks of society, aiming to promote traditional knowledge. With a vision to save the rich variety of languages in Côte d'Ivoire, as through these understanding and insight into cultures can be gained, SA.PO.MI.VIE has taken on the task of tackling literacy needs on both an urban and a rural level. Their main objective is to help reduce the illiteracy rate to 35% by 2020 by creating a literate environment and developing a culture of writing in native languages and French.

By creating a literate environment encompassing not only French, but also national and local languages, the linguistic wealth of Côte d'Ivoire is brought to light. Traditional values are highlighted and each Ivoirian encouraged to learn at least five native languages, thus promoting acceptance of each other's diffferences, leveling barriers and apriorisms and creating a total social cohesion. People are made aware that learning one's native language, including reading and writing it, should be recognised as a right.

The association organises literacy classes in the native languages not only for adults, but also for school children as part of their school programme. They publish a wide range of books in the native languages including easy readers, syllabuses, learning manuals, essays, stories, essays, among other things, all catering to the different levels readers may have and also to ease people into reading in their native languages. A main activity of the association is the organisation and participation in different literacy and reading and language events. Each year they are behind the organization of a large event called Quinzaine des Langues or Fortnight of Languages. It is a national two-week event, recently expanded to cover the whole year, bringing together and promoting the reading and writing of the native languages in Côte d'Ivoire.

In recognition of their achievements, in 2013, SA.PO.MI.VIE was awarded the UNESCO Confucius Literacy Prize.

Aims and Objectives

Specific objectives relating to the programme include:

  • Create a written environment for French and native languages through poster boards and other environmental indicators
  • Create a variety of literature in national languages
  • Promote traditional cultures through bilingual literature: tales, legends, proverbs, riddles in native languages and French
  • Remove any complexes Ivorians may have with their traditional languages and cultures through lectures, roundtables, language games (scrabble, puzzles)
  • Organize events (two-week events of promoting native languages, competitions for the best speaker, best polyglot, best reader) for social mobilization around national languages and traditional cultures

Programme Implementation

Teaching – Learning Approaches and Methodologies


The main pedagogy used is active and participatory. This is based on the REFLECT method which focuses on the life exprerience and the environment of the learner. Learners needs are determined during a preliminary meeting or interview to assess their expectations.

All the national languages are potentially taught, to the limit of finding available specialists to teach them along with suitable locations. In large towns bilingualism is promoted and specialists are bilingual in a native language and French.

Each year an event called the Quinzaine des Langues or Fortnight of Languages is held. This is a 15-day language event promoting reading, writing and speaking of the native languages. During this event, initiation sessions are organised for reading and writing in local laanguages. Competitions are also held for the best polyglot, the best reader, the best writer, among other things.

Since 2010, this event has been extended to cover the whole year with special activities for pupils organized during their classes and the same for adults and students during the holidays.

Programme content (curriculum)

The content of the programme is jointly determined with learners according to the needs they expressed during the preliminary investigation. Classes for adults and the general public are held at the NGO, and for school-age learners, these are held in a classroom set aside in their establishment. On average there are 25 learners per group with the school programme according 64 hours per year to work directly with the students during class time. There is also a library period which is also used by the programmme as well as free periods. Classes from grades 5 and 6 (ages 10-12) have been followed by the programme. They are taught the alphabet, reading and writing, various themes taken from the syllabuses, fables, proverbs and subjects relating to development.

Main topics covered relate to civil, moral and family life, health, environment, democracy, living together, rights and duties of citizens.

Materials are developed according to learners' needs by specialists of the Institute of Applied Linguistics of Abidjan, the International Linguistics Society and the Bible Society of Côte d'Ivoire in collaboration with the publishers Livre Sud (EDILIS).

Material used includes primers in local languages, bilingual texts (French/mother-tongue), whiteboards, marker pens, the board game Côte d'Ivoire: 60 languages=1 nation. Individual equipment is also supplied including notebooks, pens and pencils.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

Facilitators are usually paid on a part-time basis, on average CFA 50 000 per month (US$103). Facilitators take care of classes of 25 participants. They each receive training by a team of trainers from the NGO. They also follow a seminar on capacity building provided by a training firm before each literacy campaign.

Facilitators are selected from a list of contacts depending on which language of instruction is needed. Each facilitator is a native speaker of the teaching language.

Enrollment of Learners

The main target groups are adults and out-of-school youth, particularly women and girls. The programme is mainly run among the general public, but also at the school level from primary to secondary. Participants are tested to see if they have already learnt to read and write in the language being taught or in another national language. Groups are formed based on this information.

The programme regularly participates at national and local reading and language events promoting adult literacy and the acquisition of the national languages. Participation rates at these events are shown in the following chart.


Assessment of learning outcomes

Evaluations of participants take place during the event Quinzaine des langues maternelles in the form of various competitions. Those wishing to partake compete against each other, and through the results, prizes are awarded during an official ceremony. Each participant receives an attestation of participation.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring is an ongoing process. Follow-up cards are filled out and analysed. Learners also give feedback orally, through interviews. Following feedback and analysis, reports are written. This helps to obtain results and evaluate how the programme and project is progressing.

The NGO SA.PO.MI.VIE works along with the Ministry of Culture and Francophonie for all of its activities as well as the Ministry of Education. They bring institutional and technical support to the different events organized by the association.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Impact and achievements

Since 2006 the NGO SA.PO.MI.VIE has organised an event called the Quinzaines des langues maternelles. This event, lasting two weeks and aiming to promote mother-tongue languages, organizes a wide variety of activities surrounding the theme of mother-tongues and books including round table discussions, conference debates, a reading space open to the public. 2013 saw the 8th edition of the annual event. Through games, competitions and conferences, the importance of the mother-tongue is highlighted and brought to the fore. This event is the result of individual short events organised during 2000-2005 including Lire en Fête (Reading Festival), Fête du Livre (Book Festival), and Journées des Langues (Language Days).

The association also actively publishes bilingual manuscripts, and now has over 100 in their collection. These texts currently cover around 10 languages and there are plans to publish in a further 20 languages .

Focal points have been put in place in the following areas:

Towns Geographic location in the country Linguistic family
Yamoussoukro (Kouaméfla) Centre Kwa
Daloa, Gibéroua, Saïoua and Ouragarhio Centre-west Kru
Bouna North Gur

The project is in place for it to be rolled out across the country, but is lacking funding to do so. In the interim, in line with the financial support available, focus is given to establishments and centres who follow the same vision as the association.

Feedback from participants also show the motivation they have for the programme:

“I want to learn local languages to feel always at home, wherever I may go on the national territory“
(Je veux apprendre les langues maternelles pour me sentir toujours chez moi partout où je vais sur le territoire national.)

“I come to this class because I want to master the local languagesand especially be able to read and write any Ivoirian language fluently“
(Je viens à ce cours parce que je veux pouvoir maîtriser mes langues maternelles et surtout parvenir à lire et à écrire couramment n’importe quelle langue ivoirienne.)

“I come to this class because I saw what I was capable of, thanks to the initiation to reading and writing which I received in 2006, to read and write my mother languages which I already speak. I want to deepen my knowledge“
(Je viens à ce cours parce que j’ai vu que je suis capable, grâce à l’initiation à l’écriture et à la lecture que j’ai reçue en 2006, de lire et d’écrire les langues maternelles que je parle déjà. Je veux approfondir mes connaissances.)

“I want to be able to read and write the mother languages I speak“
(Je veux pouvoir lire et écrire les langues maternelles que parle.)

“I want to improve on the alphabet I learnt last year to be able to write the mother languages fluently“
(Je souhaite approfondir l’alphabet que j’ai appris l’année dernière pour pouvoir écrire couramment les langues maternelles.)


Challenges and lessons learned

As with many programmes, financing is a key issue. While the programme is able to keep running through self-funding and private donations, this has hindered any projects to expand and extend the programme.

Some of these projects include the training of facilitators in the efficient use of literacy documents as well as written numeracy in the local languages.

The previously mentioned board game Côte d'Ivoire: 60 languages=1 nation has yet to published. It has been tested in various establishments as well as during the annual language events. Adequate funding needed to publish it is still being obtained.

Another big challenge and also the original challenge to which the programme tries to respond comes with the modernisation of Côte d'Ivoire. Mastering the native languages is not seen as a priority among the general population, even looking down on them. Urbanisation is at the forefront and so convincing people to hold on to and master a language they don't consider of value is an ongoing and constant challenge. The fact that Côte d'Ivoire has over 70 national languages only increases this challenge, many of them risk dying out if action is not taken. The association considers each language to be of equal value. A language is seen as a brick which is both a single entity and also necessary to building a nation, reinforcing peace and reconciliation. Taking the interest and needs of each one into account is a strategy that has shown itself to work so far.


The programme runs on self-financing and private donations. This has proved sustainable so far, and no plans are underway to change this form of funding.

The programme has yet to be reproduced throughout Côte d'Ivoire and abroad, but this is a possible project under discussion. Following an enquiry made during the 32nd Book Salon in Paris (Salon du Livre du Paris), the interest of Ivoirians living in Paris to learn their native languages was aroused. During the 33rd Salon, the following year, a conference was held which many Ivoirians from the diaspora participated in.

The growing interest of the population and public administrations to save and promote the national languages is a key indicator of the sustainability of the programme. The Ministers of Education and of culture are looking at ways for teaching the national languages in schools. The programme is also looking to participate in the emergence of the country in 2020.

Internet source

Contact details

Madame Lorougnon Dréhi Padré Mical
Chief Executive Officer/President
10 BP 477 Abidjan 10 - Côte d'Ivoire
Telephone / Fax: (225) 05 95 71 69 / 06 73 29 98 / 66 49 73 85
Email: sapomivie (at) yahoo.fr / edilis (at) aviso.ci
Website: http://www.sapomivie.org ; http://www.edilis.org

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.). Last update: 9 March 2015. I am learning your tongue, you are learning my tongue, we are understanding each other, tomorrow belongs to us, Ivory Coast . UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 20 March 2023, 13:25 CET)

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