Why do Moroccans Underestimate their mother tongue?
By Omar Bihmidine
Morocco World News
Sidi Ifni, Morocco, February 28, 2013
A mother tongue is the language that we first uttered and spoke when we were children. It is so blessed and much cherished that we continue to cling to it throughout our lives. It is the first language we became acquainted with and learned to speak at home with our parents. Hence, no one should say that one’s mother tongue is not worth speaking or using no matter what the reason or excuse is provided.
If you travel to France, you will hear the French speaking in their mother tongue–French. If you have been to America, you must have heard Americans speaking in English as the most common means of communication. If you happen to travel to Italy, you will undoubtedly hear the Italians communicating in Italian. It is true that Americans, the French and Italians sometimes speak another language apart from their own. Yet, most of the time, they do so because they have to, not necessarily because they feel like doing so.
Strangely, however, if you are in Morocco, you will hear Moroccans using other languages apart from their mother tongue in order to convey messages or express ideas to their fellow Moroccans. So many Amazigh people speak Moroccan Arabic even when they talk to their fellow Amazighs. Despite being the common denominator, the Amazigh language is sometimes absent from Amazigh homes or from circles of Amazigh friends. The same is true of Moroccans whose mother tongue is purely Moroccan Arabic. In many homes, these Moroccans resort to French to speak with each other. At times, Moroccans cannot help but utter French words despite the fact that they are not French and that they can still express the same thought using their first language.
Whereas developed countries give their mother tongues their due value, some Moroccans consider their mother tongue as a weakness and a defect. Oddly, even the educated Moroccans who are expected to be aware of this linguistic ignominy also fall prey to using some French words to speak their mind. If we look back, we will find that the same idea which was expressed in French could have been expressed in the mother tongue. Acknowledging one’s first language is of great value to one’s identity, culture and community.
Yet, resorting to French must be either a conscious or unconscious way of showing off or shaming some ‘intellectuality.’ Some Moroccans, teachers in particular, resort to French whenever they want to talk about a certain date. For instance, they say “le trois” or “le cinq” in French instead of saying the same thing in Arabic or in Amazigh–the two official languages of Morocco as stated in the new constitution. Dates are–among other things–a simple example to demonstrate how alienated we have become and how neglectful we are of our mother tongue.
We might wonder and ask whether our mother tongues are too vulnerable to express what we want to express and say what we want to say as clearly as possible? Is it because we find much solace in others’ mother tongues that we begin to underestimate and avoid speaking our native language? We are addicted to this bad practice and find it hard to give up the habit. No doubt, many of those who do not recognize the importance of one’s mother tongue in expressing anything, be it a date or an abstract idea, are deluding themselves by the idea that a user of French is nobler than a user of Amazigh, Arabic or Moroccan Arabic.
Personally, it annoys me when I talk to my fellow Moroccans, and they begin to say “donc”, ” alors”, “oui”, ” c’est bien”, ” déja” ” deux fois”, ” Ca va”, etc. Can’t Moroccan Arabic or Amazigh express the same meaning these expressions do? For sure, they can. Why are we not treating our first languages justly, respectably and in a prestigious way? Have we ever heard the French or the Spaniards using Arabic while they are speaking to each other? I do not think so.
Nobody can say that they should not learn as many languages as possible. Being polyglot is universally encouraged. But ignoring one’s mother tongue for no obvious reason is nonsensical.
Besides, it is a threat to our Moroccanness. It is a threat to the future of our children. It is a danger to posterity as well.
Jamal Ezzaoui, a Moroccan teacher of Arabic who has seen this common occurrence, said that “When we resort to other languages, we automatically distort our Moroccan image and become what we are not. Also, we leave our Moroccan identity in the lurch”.
” State media in nearly all its forms is responsible for the spread of this phenomenon,” Ezzaoui added.
As an Amazigh man, I know a number of Amazigh people, especially the uneducated, who choose not to speak their mother tongue. For them, speaking it is a clear sign of being crude and backward. Speaking Arabic or French instead, they believe, will help them break out of the uncivilized and underdeveloped part of Moroccan society. Seeking development through speaking others’ languages has made us unable to speak or master at least one language. Very few Moroccans purely speak their mother tongue. Reasons differ regarding this phenomenon, but the common denominator among Moroccans is that they still underestimate their mother tongue.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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