I am a linguistic anthropologist who investigates language, literacy and society in Manding-speaking West Africa and the French-speaking world.

I am the director of An ka taa, an organization which produces media and resources for speakers and learners of Manding.

I received my PhD in Educational Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 after writing a dissertation about the N'ko movement.

You can contact me at my first name [dot] my last name [at] gmail [dot] com.


Na baro kè

A 13-episode series of subtitled street-side “chats” with everyday people in West Africa.


Easy French

I produced 5 episodes investigating French society and its language through interviews in the streets of Paris.


Basic Bambara

I am the producer of a virtual grammar manual and free YouTube series teaching the basics of Manding grammar through the lens of Bambara.



Refereed Journal Articles

Book Chapters


  • 2016. “Apprendre le bambara” Textbook/App. Linguarena. Chessy, France (iOS & Android)


Book Reviews



Here is a selection of some of my current and on-going work...


Emerging from my dissertation, my book manuscript project uses multi-sited transnational fieldwork to track a West African social movement as it engages with definitions of Blackness, citizenship and Islam while promoting mother-tongue literacy and education. Built around the unique orthography invented in 1949, my research probes the pan-Manding N’ko (ߒߞߏ) movement through a discourse analytic focus on the linguistic forms, usage and ideologies through which larger societal debates unfold.

With support from Fulbright-IIE and three Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowships, I have carried out this ethnographic research since 2011 in classrooms, homes and radio-stations across Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, as well as France and the Northeastern United States.


Na baro kè” (literally, 'come chat') is a project to provide Manding-speakers and -learners with an online subtitled video series on YouTube of street-side “chats” with everyday people in West Africa.



My other research project focuses on the cultural and linguistic dynamics underlying Ajami—the understudied practice of writing Indigenous African languages in Arabic script. Initial pilot research on this topic resulted in a both a sponsored conference presentation in Brussels as well as an article, “Jula Ajami in Burkina Faso: A Grassroots Literacy in the Former Kong Empire” (2013), in the journal Working Papers in Educational Linguistics.


An ongoing collaboration with Antoine Fenayon of Association Donniyakadi in France to improve our online and mobile-friendly Manding dictionary with learners of Bambara and Jula in mind.


Typesetting and translation of the non-standard transcription of the Jula-language performance of the "Tale of Samori Touré" by Amadou Kouroubari to Maurice Delafosse in 1899/1900 (as appears in Delafosse, 1906)



Undergraduate Courses

  • French  - Intermediate II: “Griots modernes: l’art de la parole” (Fall 2017 – two sections)

  • Manding - Elementary I (Fall 2017)

Graduate Courses

  • Educational Linguistics (Fall 2016)

An ka taa

  • Over 20 students of Bambara, Jula and Maninka tutored since 2015



Appearances, Clips, Productions


  • Interview segment on Cherifla's "N'ko Laseli" - (2018, May 30)

  • Interview segment during RTG coverage of the annual N'ko gathering in NYC (2017, April 14)

  • Interview 1 on Cherifla's "N'ko Laseli"- (2016, August 06)

  • Interview 2 on Cherifla's "N'ko Laseli"- (2016, August 20)


  • Interview on Language Teaching Inspiration (2020, Feb 01)

  • Interview on RFI Mandenkan (2019, October 27)





  • Basic Bambara--the podcast! (2019-Present)

  • An ka taa podcast (2017)

  • Twitter

©2020 by Coleman Donaldson.