Albert Valdman received an A.B. in Romance Languages from the University of Pennsylvania (1953) and a Ph.D. in French Linguistics from Cornell University (1960).
He taught at the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State and at Pennsylvania State University before joining Indiana University in 1960, where he holds the title of Rudy Professor Emeritus of French & Italian and Linguistics. He served as first chair of the Department of Linguistics, founded the Creole Institute and was Director of French Language Instruction in the Department of French and Italian. He has held visiting appointments at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica), the University of Nice, Harvard University, and the University of Oregon.
His research and teaching span a broad range of areas in applied and descriptive linguistics, including second language acquisition research, foreign language teaching, creole studies, and French linguistics. He is one of the pioneer researchers in the study of French language outside of France, especially in Louisiana (Le Français hors de France (ed., 1979); Le Français en Amérique du Nord: Etat présent (2005); Dictionary of Louisiana French: As Spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian Communities (collab., 2010).
In the field of creole studies he has published: Saint-Lucia Creole Basic Course (collab., 1969), Basic Course in Haitian Creole (1970), Le créole: structure, statut et origine (1978), Haitian Creole-English-French Dictionary (1981), Ann pale kreyòl (1988), A Learner’s Dictionary of Haitian Creole (1996), A Dictionary of Louisiana Creole (collab., 1998), Haitian Creole-English Bilingual Dictionary (collab., 2007), Haitian Creole: Structure, Variation, Status, Origin (2015); English-Haitian Creole Bilingual Dictionary (collab., 2017). He has edited or co-edited: Pidgin and Creole Linguistics (1977); Theoretical Orientations in Creole Studies (1980); Créole et enseignement primaire en Haïti (1980); Historicity and Variation in Creole Studies (1981); Haiti–Today and Tomorrow (1984); French and Creole in Louisiana (1997).
Dr. Valdman has been involved in the preparation of foreign language materials, including a major high school French series (Scott, Foresman, 1972-2000), and beginning French college textbooks, the most recent of which is Chez Nous: branché sur le monde francophone, 4th edition (co-author, 2009). In the area of French linguistics he has published Introduction to French Phonology and Morphology (1976) and Bien entendu! Introduction à la prononciation française (1993).
He is founder of the journal Studies in Second Language Acquisition, published by Cambridge University Press, and served as its editor-in-chief for 37 years. He served as secretary-treasurer of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, secretary general and president of the International Association of Applied Linguistics, vice-president and president of the American Association of Teachers of French, and vice-president of the Comité International des Etudes Créoles.
Valdman has held Guggenheim, NATO-NSF, Senior Fulbright Research and Mellon Emeritus fellowships; he was named Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques of France (1997) and to the Ordre des Francophones d’Amérique of the government of Quebec Province (2008). In 2012 he received the Médaille d’Or du Mérite Francophone (Renaissance Française). He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence by the Haitian Studies Association (2009) and the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics (2012). He holds a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Neuchâtel (1991).
In August 2008, the Department announced the creation of the Albert Valdman Graduate Student Research and Travel Fund in honor of Rudy Professor Emeritus Albert Valdman, to foster graduate student development as Professor Valdman has throughout his career.