[lg policy] bibitem: Arabization and Language Policy: The Case of Morocco and Algeria

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 21 14:46:18 UTC 2012

Arabization and Language Policy: The Case of Morocco and Algeria
 Written on March 20, 2012 by
History <http://bokamosoafrica.org/category/history>,
Leadership <http://bokamosoafrica.org/category/leadership>,
 [image: images2]

Using one language as the medium of instruction seems to be inevitably
successful in some countries. However, in multilingual societies such as
Morocco and Algeria, basing education on one medium of instruction results
in the failure of the whole educational system. In this article, I plan to
talk about Arabization, which was implemented as a language policy and a
medium of instruction in Morocco and Algeria in the 60s. All textbooks,
road signs and government documents were translated from French to Arabic.
Unfortunately, the then newly introduced policy did not seem to work well
neither in either country, the weaknesses of the policy are still visible
in the population of these two North African countries, especially Morocco.

Arabization policy is aimed at the spread of the use of Arabic by the
suppression of French and other local languages such as colloquial Arabic
and Tamazight. Before proceeding to the implementation of the Arabization
policy, authorities should have considered the fact that Arabic needed a
thorough terminology coining for the teaching of science and technology.
Consequently, the weakness of Arabic to fulfill the needs of education led
Algerians to maintain the use of French. Similarly, by the time the first
Arabized student cohort reached higher education, Morocco’s Ministry of
Education had no other choice, but to decree a new law that allowed the use
of French in universities despite the pressure exerted in elementary
schools. As a response, attempts were made to enrich Arabic’s vocabulary,
but the fact that Arabic required the use of many words to express one word
in French or English led to more confusion and impreciseness. This handicap
made the Arabization policy an unbalanced, inconsistent and incomplete one,
which resulted in the low proficiency of lots of students in both
languages: Standard Arabic and French.

Moreover, the disaster was the unpreparedness of students to deal with
French as they were not allowed to become proficient enough in it to pursue
more complex fields of studies such as mathematics, engineering or biology.
As a result, the standards of the institutions declined dramatically
because students struggled first and foremost with French and then the
content. It would be false to generalize about student proficiency in
French. Some were able to talk about their field of studies in French, but
not in Arabic.

Some people claim that Arabization was intended to separate between the
elite and other social classes in order to reduce competition for the
prestigious and highly paid careers. Thus, the elite made sure that their
children grew up more proficient in French than Arabic since French has
always been the language of commerce in Morocco. It is a well-respected
Moroccan norm to speak French better than Arabic because of its social
capital. The other aim behind Arabization is the strive for a monolingual
nation and for an Arab-Islamic identity that is independent from all
western and internal influence. Arabization policy leaders have ignored
that both Algeria and Morocco are linguistically diverse. Consequently,
Tamazight speakers started to be very active in promoting the consideration
and use of their languages and won the battle only at the end of 2011 when
Tamazight became an official language after the amendment of the Moroccan

The elite did not want to have many competitors in jobs that pay big
salaries and they were smart enough to educate their children either in
French schools or in prestigious private schools. This interpretation could
also be extended and related to current events and claim that authorities
wanted to reduce the percentage of educated people because the government
may not be able to employ all the youths and unemployment would be a
difficult thing to deal with, especially at this time that most revolutions
in the Arab world resulted from the high rate of unemployment, corruption
and inequality of opportunities.

The leaders know very well how students in the 60s and the 70s were
successful, knowledgeable and intelligent bilinguals. Leaving French as the
medium of instruction in higher education was perhaps meant to be an
impediment for students to face problems and challenges which will result
in their low qualification for the job market. However, some of the
students managed to become proficient in French by practice and the hard
work they devoted to the language along with the course content.


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