By Ambassador Theodore Kattouf
By Ambassador Theodore Kattouf
Marrakech – Language in Morocco is a vibrant resource and an economic imperative. Arabic, Tamazight, French and Spanish are spoken from the souks of Tangier, across the Atlas Mountains, to the desert gardens of Marrakech and beyond. While as a result, millions of Moroccans are fluent in multiple languages, young people in particular have inherited a linguistic jigsaw puzzle that they are sometimes hard-pressed to put together. Yet, having deftly navigated the Arab Spring—and the Arab Winter—Morocco is well positioned to step deeper into the global marketplace, and raise the standard of living throughout the country in the process. A central aspect of this is English language acquisition.
Given Morocco’s colonial history, French has been the operative language for diplomats, businesspeople and tourists, and it will certainly remain an important language here. However, the French themselves are now learning English at an ever increasing pace in order to do business more effectively across time zones and cultures. Young people in particular see English as their second language, often weaving English phrases into their Arabic. Clearly, in order to sustain growth in tourism, international trade and logistics, as well as its nascent technology industry, Morocco must transform how it teaches English as a foreign language (EFL).
Later this week, hundreds of people determined to improve our world will descend on Marrakesh for the first Clinton Global Initiative conference to be held in Africa or the Middle East. I will be among them, representing AMIDEAST as we confirm our commitment to help Morocco improve its educational outcomes and, more specifically, its teaching of English. AMIDEAST has earned a strong reputation for designing and delivering education, workforce development, and English language training programs tailored to the specifics needs of the Arab world. Our understanding of and commitment to Morocco is well demonstrated through more than 35 years of continual operation in the country.
In partnership with the Ministry of National Education, our CGI commitment will provide Moroccan English teachers with hands-on exposure to the communicative, learner-centered EFL approach that has long been acknowledged internationally as a best practice. This approach to learning emphasizes language use—the ability to apply the knowledge acquired in meaningful situations—as opposed to the memorization of language rules and forms. Such a shift results not only in greater motivation in the classroom, but also improved student achievement.
Needless to say, this will have a huge impact in Morocco, where language education has become an important political issue. In his annual address at the opening session of Parliament last year, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI stated, “I perceive human capital as our foremost asset in building on the country’s economic, social, political and human rights achievements… I have therefore been attaching special importance to training and education, so that our citizens may be proud of their identity and embrace universal values.”
“Moreover,” he confirmed, “particular attention should be given to vocational training and to ensuring a good command of foreign languages so that graduates may cope with technological progress and access the new jobs being created in Morocco.”
He’s right. In recent years, Morocco has emerged as a leader in economic development among North African countries, attracting highly technical industries such as aeronautics and automotive manufacturing. As Morocco’s economy grows, and as international companies—including many from the U.S.—establish offices there, the need for fluent English speakers also grows. And as research shows, English-speaking Moroccans earn 13% more than non-English speakers and are more successful overall in the job market.
Fortunately, this transformation in English language education in Morocco is possible, but it will require actors from different spheres of society working together. Indeed, the biggest takeaway from the CGI Middle East & Africa Meeting is that cross-sector cooperation is the key to solving any 21-century jigsaw puzzle – from mitigating the consequences of climate change to equipping young Moroccans with language skills that can boost their place in the global economy.
Ambassador Theodore Kattouf is the President of AMIDEAST
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy