Marrakech – Morocco has lately witnessed a profound change in various policies, and attention has focused on Morocco’s policy on language which has been questioned in debates in recent years.
However, the policy of language implementation is quite problematic, given the nature of Morocco’s many cultural and linguistic influences as well as its local identity, while at the same time also being driven by the need to adapt to the globe, which is a part of Morocco’s openness towards Europe, the US, and the entire world.
It is evident that French and Moroccan Arabic, colloquially known as “Darija,” constitute the major useful languages as most Moroccans can speak both, or at least one, in public life. Each of these languages serves in a variety of public areas and is used by categories of people as their language of communication and for special purposes. Yet, Tamazight on the other hand has been introduced to the public in reaction to demands by a number of associations and human rights NGOs. Such movements have been calling for a real political willingness to recognize Tamazight as an official language of Morocco, not merely recognizing it constitutionally but promoting it as much as possible to be an active and dynamic language serving all areas in the public.
The current state of language policy in Morocco is complicated. It is based upon extensive historical and cultural changes within the Moroccan society. Yet establishing a certain language as official above the others is based upon political power. Therefore, power has been an important factor driving language policy, no matter what tongue the majority of people speak. France, as a part of its colonial theory, imposed French upon the majority of people who speak Tamazight and/or Moroccan Arabic. Therefore, France influenced the linguistic structure of Morocco, which has served French interests well, even after Morocco’s independence.
Unlike some ex-French colonies, such as Senegal and Mali, which have adopted French as their first language after their independence, Morocco decided to use both French and Standard Arabic, one being a national and official language and the other the medium of business and foreign communication. Although the decision maintained the Arabo-Islamic identity of Morocco and reshaped its existence, it has not completely satisfied the linguistic needs of all Morocco, especially the Amazigh speaking groups whose identity and culture has been neglected and not politically recognized in the past decade.
English vs. French?
Nobody can deny that French dominates most areas of public life in Morocco. The French language has tremendously affected our behaviors the attitudes. It is often regarded as a second language after Darija, but a large proportion of people consider it to be a foreign language alongside English and Spanish. Indeed, French is, to many Moroccans, a language used to gain prestige and respect. Besides, speakers of this language are labeled as belonging to the upper social class. It has also for the past century, been a “global” language due to many educational references written in French in all disciplines, such as the arts and experimental sciences.
The wave of globalization has pushed many countries in the developing world to adopt English as a first foreign language. Some of these countries are neither the home of English speaking people nor ex-British colonies. To name but a few, these include Poland, Hungary and Turkey. Such countries considered English a potential language which could contribute to their local development. Most of these countries have adopted English as a medium of instruction at the tertiary education level, as well as the language of business, diplomacy, and foreign affairs. Consequently, their language policy has succeeded in introducing these countries to the global structure as models of developing countries.
Morocco, on the other hand, has worked to reach the “globalised world” through several attempts at reform. Yet the public policy of Morocco has not taken into consideration the need to adopt English, as a universal language, being understood by the majority of international decision makers and scholars from all over the world. Morocco still retains French as its first interest, with little attention paid to English, claiming that the first (French) is still as much a “global language” as it was believed to have been in the past decade, while the second (English) is less efficient at the national level.
Very recently, Moroccan teachers of English, including members of the governments and leaders of political parties (e.g., the Minister of higher education, Mr. Lahcen Daoudi and the leader of Alistiqlal party, Mr. Hamid Chabat) have called upon replacing French with English as a first foreign language, or at least making English more important in Moroccan education. Yet, no official statement has been made by the government to give a boost to English.
Standard Arabic vs. Darija (Moroccan Dialect of Arabic)
Standard Arabic is the official language of the state. Morocco has implemented it to cover all sectors including public education and media. However, Moroccan citizens do not master this language as it is not their mother tongue, rather they are brought up using Darija as a medium of communication within families, friends and colleagues. Linguistically speaking, Darija is a dialect which combines some Arabic items with the local expressions. It has moved from being a dialect into a prospective language serving Media and Arts. Therefore, some scholars have recently called for standardizing Darija and adopting it as a language of instruction in Education.
In the televised 2M program “Moubashara Maakom,” a special episode was produced for the debate on the question of Darija implementation. The two debaters, Nour Eddin Ayouch and Abdellah El Aroui, are scholars representing opposite views concerning the legitimacy and efficiency of using Darija at schools in place of Standard Arabic. Nour Eddin Ayouch who advocates the issue claimed that Darija is understood by the ultimate proportion of people and it could simplify the process of learning. On the other hand, Abdellah El Aroui opposes Ayouch’s proposal, and explained that Standard Arabic is the language of the divine and is linguistically rich. El Aroui argued that Darija is not qualified to cover Sciences and Academia, because it lacks rules and standard practices in writing and syntax.
After the constitutional recognition of Tamazight, Morocco will, today or tomorrow, recognize that preserving its history and identity is a result of promoting its language. We are often aware that implementing foreign languages is a key solution to overcome joblessness, and also help us learn new cultures while expanding our discovery to the world, in addition to introducing our country the best possible way to foreigners.
Yet, our language policy lacks principles and planning. The language panorama in Morocco is witnessing a real crisis in all aspects. Yet it is not time to lay blame or initiate proposals. Rather, it is time to establish a clear and well-oriented policy which takes into consideration the promotion of Morocco’s cultural heritage and identity, as well as the need to adapt to global changes using suitable communication techniques to achieve growth and prosperity for the country.
Edited by Elisabeth Myers
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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