A failed plastic surgery to brighten the image of the French language in Morocco under the name of linguistic diversity and offering Darija as a way out of linguistic schizophrenia in Morocco.
By Mohamed Amine Qasserras
Rabat – The article titled “Let’s celebrate Linguistic Diversity” by Christine Houben presents a great misunderstanding of the Moroccan cultural and historical context. The author begins her article by claiming, or reminding, Moroccans in a stern writing style that Morocco underwent a protectorate and that it was not a colony.
The author presented the French presence in Morocco from 1912 until 1956 as a protectorate. She goes on to attempt to embellish the situation—calling French the language of people who protected and gave a helping hand to Moroccans in their time of need.
Culturally speaking, “protectorate” is much more pejorative and offensive than “colony,” if we consider Tailor’s definition of culture as a civilization. Referring to Morocco as a French protectorate and not a colony leaves information open to interpretations.
Embracing this term by a western journalist or a travel writer brings back the slogan of the civilization mission and orientalist discourse; the inability of Moroccans to protect themselves and run their affairs by themselves. The notion of being a protectorate identified Moroccans as immature, and engulfed in anarchy while it depicted the French colonizers as heroes.
In writing, the notion of colony is usually associated with the material crime, while a protectorate is related to ethnocentrism discourse and post-colonial dialogue. Frankly speaking, I did not understand what the writer meant by saying that Morocco was a protectorate and not a colony to stress linguistic diversity.
Reading the writer’s words in a different way causes the reader to conclude that imperialism is implicitly introduced and swallowed as a means of cultural diversity. The author also drew an unfair comparison between the use of French in major cities like Casablanca and the speaking of Spanish in northern Morocco.
The spread of the French language in major cities like Casablanca or Rabat is not the case of Spanish in the North. Though some Spanish is spoken in the North, French is still the language used in business and administrations all over the kingdom, including in the northern areas.
Regardless of the brutal Spanish colonization, speaking Spanish or borrowing some of its words or even adapting some Spanish cultural values is seen as a cultural diffusion, since Morocco borders Spain.
Conversely, French in Morocco is no more than a colonial legacy imposed on Moroccans. The use of French is widespread in Morocco. It is the official language of the country though it is not drafted in the Moroccan constitution. Moroccan administrations communicate in French, a language that 80 percent of Moroccans do not master.
I support linguistic–or broadly–cultural diversity, but Morocco should not be seen any time as a fertile land perfect for any linguistic cultivation. A sense of identity should be presented, indeed.
The author tried to point out that Darija should be the official language to be taught in Moroccan schools as a way out of linguistic schizophrenia. She gives some concrete examples of some countries who adapted foreign languages, even the language of the colonizer, as was the case in India.
Still, it is easy to recognize that this article was written not to define linguistic diversity in Morocco per se, or suggesting Darija as a way out of linguist-schizophrenia in our society, but to act as plastic surgery for the French language which has lost many of its fans in Morocco and abroad.
Morocco is one of the rare countries in the world which has celebrated its cultural diversity for centuries. The recent Moroccan constitution recognizes all local languages and all identities within the country much more than some “democratic” western countries, including France.
France, as one of the “democratic” nations in the world, has rejected any attempt to constitutionalize local languages within the French Republic as an attack on French national identity. Article two of the French constitution obviously states “The language of the republic is French.” This means that French national identity is only expressed through French.
There are many local languages spoken in France but only French is seen to represent the linguistic identity of French people. Historically, students belonging to minorities in French schools were punished for speaking local languages such Breton, Alsatian, Occitan, etc.
There are more than 5 million Arabs immigrants living in France but their language or identity are not recognized by the French Government. France is one of the few countries who has refused to sign the European Union’s Chart giving legal rights to minority-language speakers.
I have many French friends and it is not uncommon to see a French person having a sense of linguistic patriotism defending French even in a “French protectorate.”
This article would be better addressed to the Democratic Republic of France to celebrate linguistic diversity and tolerate multiculturalism. This is an inappropriate label for a country like Morocco which has embraced tolerance and multiculturalism for centuries.
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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