Algeria: Amazigh language teaching lacks standardisation, qualified teachers

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Dec 12 21:21:50 UTC 2006

Forwarded from edling-list


Amazigh language teaching in Algeria lacks standardisation, qualified

The Amazigh language is officially taught in Algeria and Morocco. However,
difficulties remain -- such as the lack of a standard language and a
shortage of Amazigh teachers. By Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Algiers --

Linguists and academics from Algeria, France and Morocco scrutinised the
teaching of the Amazigh language at an international colloquium held last
week in Algiers. Discussions focused on standardising the language and the
shortage of teachers. Meryem Demnati, head of teaching at the Royal
Institute of the Amazigh Culture in Morocco (IRCAM), spoke about Moroccos
experiences of teaching Amazigh. He said the endeavour has been made
difficult by the large number of dialects -- including Tarifit, spoken in
the Moroccan countryside;  Tamazight, spoken in the Middle Atlas; and
Tachelhit, in the High Atlas. The number of regional Amazigh varieties has
led IRCAM to "try to standardise it, to make it easier to learn and give
it a national character," Demnati said. A similar situation is occurring
in Algeria, where the National Teaching and Linguistic Centre for
Tamazight Education (CNPLET) is attempting to deal with the numerous
regional dialects, which include Kabyle, Chaoui, Mzab and Chleuh.

The teaching of Amazigh has been beset by problems ever since it began
being taught in Algeria in 1995. One obstacle is the optional nature of
the subject, while another has been the shortage of qualified language
teachers. This has led to a rise in the number of Algerian wilayas where
it is not taught at all, from six in 1995 to 11 at present. "What we need
most of all is to give this language an academy, a body which will take
ultimate responsibility for teaching one which will recruit
doctorate-level researchers to put forward standards for the teaching of
spelling and grammar to take us beyond the stage of a spoken language,"
according to CNPLET Director Abderrazak Dourari. "The centre is intended
as a forum for calm, perhaps even passionate debates by specialists, but
the final decision, especially regarding the choice of a writing system,
does not lie within its remit."

The majority of researchers and teachers favour the Latin alphabet, but
Arabic is more commonly used in Algeria. "In Batna, after the language
stopped being taught, 4,267 pupils reverted to using Arabic script since
2005," said Chrifa Bilek, assistant manager for teaching and training at
the Haut Commissariat lAmazighit (HCA) an advisory body established in
1995. "Were not against the use of Arabic script, but the fact is that the
whole process of forming a written basis for the language carried out over
almost the last 150 years has used the Latin alphabet. It would be a waste
of time to begin all over again in Arabic The choice of alphabet is not a
matter of ideology. Turkish is written in the Latin alphabet, but that
hasnt changed the Muslim identity of Turkey in the slightest," Bilek said.

The lack of a decision has meant that the language is variously being
taught in Latin, Arabic or Tifinagh (the original Berber alphabet)
throughout Algeria. In Morocco, Tifinagh is used in the education system.
Another boost for the Amazigh language in Morocco has been that it is a
compulsory subject. Algeria is looking to follow Moroccos lead. Minister
of National Education Boubekeur Benbouzid stressed his countrys
willingness to help promote Amazigh, which it has recognised as a national
language, and announced that it will be introduced in the Brevet de
lenseignement Moyen (BEM) exams in June 2007 and baccalaureate exams in

Benbouzid conceded, however, that "there are real problems because of the
large number of dialects and the shortage of teachers able to teach in the
language of Massinissa, which has already been introduced from the fourth
year of primary schooling upwards."


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