[lg policy] Morocco: Too many languages?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat May 26 11:00:56 EDT 2018


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Many Languages? Multilingualism Leads to Conflict in Morocco


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5/25/2018 3:25:33 AM

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(MENAFN - Morocco World News) By Ossama Bziker Kenitra - Many believe that
the language situation in Morocco is more of a conflict than an advantage.
Most language conflicts stem from the unbalanced status allocated to each
language in a single country. Language conflicts take place, most of the
time, in multilingual countries such as Morocco. Its strategic location at
the gateway between Africa, Europe, and the Middle East has caused Morocco
to be influenced by multiple waves such as the Arabs, Spaniards,
Portuguese, and French. Morocco has a variety of languages spoken within
the country. The first group includes Moroccan Arabic and Tamazight
(Berber), which are held in low esteem by society. The second group
includes French and Standard Arabic, which are the languages of
administration and are held in high esteem by Moroccans. This interaction
between languages creates a realm for competition, which results in a class
struggle, as Grandguillaume puts it (Saib, 2001: 5). Language Policy in
Morocco In regard to the diversity of Moroccan languages, Zouhir argues
that the Moroccan linguistic repertoire includes two groups. The first
includes Moroccan Arabic and Tamazight, which occupies a vulnerable social
status in Morocco. The second category includes French, Standard Arabic,
and English. These languages are used in administration Dawn Marley argues
that there are three languages that enrich Moroccan language repertoire:
Tamazight, Arabic, and French. She thinks that these three languages are
the ones that must be included in any discussion related to language issues
(Marley, 2005). Read Also: Tamazight: Combatting 'Linguistic Terrorism' in
Morocco Saib analyzes the linguistic situation in Morocco in a more
detailed approach. He refers to the two languages that have native speakers
and are the mother tongues of Moroccans, both inside and outside of
Morocco. He says, 'Moroccan Arabic and Berber are the only varieties that
are spoken natively' (Saib, 2001). Other languages, such as Standard
Arabic, French, Spanish, and English, are limited to schools. Boukous
thinks that there are competition and power struggles among languages as
well as between the two groups of language (Zouhir, 2013). Another thing
that Saib mentions is that policy-makers have favored the use of French
against Standard Arabic as the most appropriate language for instruction in
schools (Saib, 2001). To support his argument, Saib claims that the Royal
Commission on the Reform of Education does not include the use of mother
tongues (Tamazight and Moroccan Arabic), and he added that the policy is
still the same today. Furthermore, Saib unravels some of the paradoxes,
utilizing the figures from the 1994 Census. Saib notices that the Amazigh
(Berber) population is estimated to be 38.64% of the total Moroccan
population. If that is added to the number of Tamazight speakers dwelling
in urban cities and outside of Morocco, it will push the percentage to
reach 60%, as estimated by some Amazigh scholars (Saib, 2001). According to
these figures, if correct, one can only notice that Tamazight is minimized
even though the Tamazight language is a majority language (Ibid). One of
the reasons behind minimizing the Tamazight language, Saib argues, is
obviously political: The ethnocentric pan-Arabist political establishment,
which has been repeating ad nauseum that Morocco is an Arab country and
that Moroccans are Arabs, does not obviously want the Amazigh to know how
many they are, hence their demographic weight, for fear that they may
demand a political power corresponding to it (Saib, 2001:1) Read Also: Moha
Ennaji Presents Anthropological Study of Morocco in 'The Olive Tree of
Wisdom' The demographic weight obviously poses a threat to the elite's
ideological plan. Moreover, Marley thinks that reinstating Arabic was a
means of preserving Morocco's Arab-Islamic identity, and its
epistemological break with Western ties. (Marley, 2005:1488). She also
added that during the Arabization plan, people thought that it was a good
move since they had never been exposed to foreign languages or Classical
Arabic (Ibid). Saib states that the sociolinguistic situation of both
Tamazight and Moroccan Arabic is inherently motivated by ideological and
political intentions (Saib, 2001:4). Marley, following in the footsteps of
Saib, argues that 'A powerful motivation behind the policy is the pursuit
and maintenance of power: the 'élite' promote Arabization from virtuous
ideological motives, but in the knowledge that French continues to be
necessary for social and professional success' (Marley, 2005: 1489). Saib
asserts that specialists in the field, who take into consideration
sociolinguists' findings and literature, are the ones who should carry on
language policy and planning (Saib, 2001). Language Conflict in Morocco The
language situation in Morocco can be seen as 'simplex'; it is simple but
complex at the same time. On one level, foreigners see multilingualism in
Morocco as richness. On the other level, theorists like Saib see it as
complex and unfair. When Arabization was first established by the
Istiqlal-led first national government (1955-1956), it was based on purely
political and ideological intentions (Saib, 2001). The sociolinguistic
status assigned to Tamazight and Moroccan Arabic during independence was
the work of the pro-Arabization 'nationalist' elite, who chose the language
that suited their agenda (Ibid). 'They have been subjected to a consciously
planned process of minorization and excluded from the school domain' (Saib,
2001:4). Read Also: Why the English Language Is Vital for the Future of
Morocco Saib says that Tamazight and Moroccan Arabic were regarded as
vernaculars that are considered stigmatized forms of speaking used in
casual settings (Ibid). Marley argues that Tamazight language and culture
are held in low esteem, and are regarded as 'synonymous with inferiority
and ignorance' (Marley, 2005). Boukous says that an analysis of the
sociolinguistic situation in North Africa reveals the hierarchy and
classification of languages according to various ecological factors, such
as the economy, politics, the marketplace, and technology (Boukous,
2008:35). When Morocco gained independence in 1956, several reforms took
place in its linguistic policies. For Morocco to break with Western
influence, it declared Classical Arabic as the official language of the
country alongside the Arabization policy (Zouhir, 2013: 274). The purpose
of Arabization was to bring the country together, but it did not respect
the multilingual voices that inhabit Morocco (Zouhir, 2013: 274). Morocco
implemented the same strategy that the French adopted during their
colonization in Morocco. 'During the French occupation for 44 years from
1912 to 1956, French was imposed and instituted as the main language of
instruction at all levels of education, and Arabic as a foreign language'
(Redouane, 2016: 19). In fact, back in 1930, the French used Tamazight
dialects and the Arabic vernaculars, through the 'Dahir berbère' (Berber
Decree), to help divide the country in order to rule more widely (Redouane,
2016: 19). After the failure of Arabization, Grandguillaume saw
'Arabization as a class struggle' (Saib, 2001). Tamazight speakers started
voicing their rights; it was time for a reform that could actually deliver
solid results. Read Also: Six Things Students of Arabic Should Know before
Starting Their Language Journey Years have passed searching for the
absolute solution for the linguistic catastrophe Morocco has suffered. The
Charter for Educational Reform, created in 2000, calls for a drastic
linguistic change. Article 110 in the Charter states, 'Morocco will now be
adopting a 'clear, coherent and constant language policy within education'.
This policy has three major thrusts: 'the reinforcement and improvement of
Arabic teaching', 'diversification of languages for teaching science and
technology' and an 'openness to Tamazight' (Marley, 2005: 1489). Openness
towards Tamazight is a huge jump towards inclusion. Although many might not
see this step as being enough, at least it represents movement toward
change and an admission that not all Moroccans are Arabs. As Berdouzi
suggests (2000: 26), if the Charter delivers what it promised, young
Moroccans will excel in Standard Arabic, as well as use it appropriately in
different domains, and they will also excel in at least two foreign
languages, which they will use in several contexts (Marley, 2005: 1490).
Morocco has adopted many reforms in the past. Although these decisions by
previous policy-makers were somewhat poor, they tried to adapt and form a
linguistically-united Morocco. Regardless of their agendas and intentions,
the changes and reforms that have occurred in Morocco are solid steps
toward changing what went wrong and preventing it from happening in the
future. Challenges will always present themselves. For example, Tamazight
is limited to the elementary level and Standard Arabic is supposed to be
used in higher education. Moreover, the Charter suggested that Morocco has
opened up to foreign languages without specifying what languages. This
leaves the foreign languages in a state of rivalry. However, this does not
mean change stops here or that it will take place overnight. This process
of recreating policies and correcting the mistakes of the past is a healthy
one. Morocco has to learn from its mistakes and evolve toward a better
future. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Morocco World News' editorial views. © Morocco World
News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or
redistributed without"

MENAFN2605201801600000ID1096910410


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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