February 25, 2024

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Francophonie in Africa: In Algeria, the French language, the worst “spoils of war”? [3/5]

Francophonie in Africa: In Algeria, the French language, the worst “spoils of war”? [3/5]

In Algeria, from September 2022, English will be taught from primary school, thus French will lose its status as the only “foreign language” in the school curriculum, along with Arabic and Damasik. Has Algiers decided to break with the legacy of colonialism?

From our correspondent in Algiers,

good morning! “,” Hello! “. Moussa, Nassim and Wafa, third-year students of primary school, try hard to rehearse. Wafa, 9, already has a head start as her older sister graduated in English literature from the University of Algiers.” I know how to say numbers from 1 to 10 “, she proudly declares.

English is the most important language. It is a world language, The teacher encourages. It is spoken in all countries, including Great Britain and America. In the class, I saw that the students were very excited to learn English. » Sagina, a teacher at the Hossein-day school in Algiers, was appointed to teach English after a short training. Like him, 5,000 contract teachers have been hired by the Ministry of National Education at the start of the September 2022 school year, three months before President Abdelmadjid Debon decided to introduce English from the cycle primary.

Until then, French was the only “foreign language” taught in primary school, along with Algeria’s two official languages, Arabic and Damascene.

It is the third largest French-speaking country

French was adopted into the school system in the 1960s. ” Paradoxically, the use of French expanded after independence. The enormous schooling efforts employed by the young Algerian government easily explain the expansion of the French language since 1962. All Algerians were qualified or educated (and, of course, the majority were in French) and foreign cooperation (especially French) led to the establishment of a de facto, if not legal, status of bilingualism in education and society in general. », noted linguist Goula Taleb Ibrahimi in a study published in 1995.

It was only in 1978 that the gradual Arabization of the school began. Since the late 1980s, French has been taught as a foreign language like English, Spanish or German in middle and secondary education.

According to UNESCO, Algeria is the third French-speaking country in the world after France and the DRC, with nearly 15 million people proficient in French, or 33% of the population. But the country, which is not a member of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), now prioritizes the use of English in the school system. ” Algeria should join the world movement. It is true that French is a “spoils of war”, but English is an international language. It is the language of economics », justified by Abdelmadjid Tebboune in July 2022.

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No hostility » Towards French

In August 2023, the Algerian president confirmed that the question of teaching English in primary schools had been raised for years. ” To build start-ups, we have to use the English language if we want to go to science. English is the language of numbers and physical principles. Parents want their children to learn English », supported Tebboune.

Before English was only taught in middle school, it now works alongside French from elementary school. The decision to renew the linguistic debate on the place of the French language in the country is still related to its colonial dimension.

Guardian Language pride », linguist Sala Belait, president of the High Council for the Arabic Language (HCLA), estimates that more than 60 countries use William Shakespeare’s language. ” Therefore, we should be more open to the English language and favor the Arabic language, maintaining our individuality. “, he maintains. Although the member of the Arabic Language Academy of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) and a teacher at DC Oso University denies any animosity towards the French language, he said in an interview, on December 18, 2022, World Arabic Language Day: ” We are against suffrage and against Francophonie, a political system under linguistic cover. »

Writer and Playwright Yasin askedAmong the authors of the famous novel Netzma, the French considered “ The ravages of war “. “ Using French does not mean one is an agent of a foreign power, I write in French to tell the French that I am not French. », he announced in 1966, four years after Algeria’s independence.

Moliere’s language occupies a valuable place in our society. It is part of the Algerian linguistic landscape. However, these spoils of war are seen by some as a sign of cultural alienation », online newspaper Dzair Daily comments after these results.

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Language-based protests are also being conducted in embassies. François Gouyette, former French Ambassador to Algiers and an Arabic speaker, celebrated the day with diplomatic mission staff and students. A first. For its part, the US Embassy is working to “strengthen” the teaching of English in Algeria. On June 10, 2023, around twenty people participated in the finals of the “National English Writing Competition” in Algiers.

The Law on “Generalization of the Arabic Language” was re-enacted

Does the Algerian government want to end the heritage of the French language? Either way, it’s hard not to see the political will in it. This decision is particularly reminiscent of the Arabization policy led by President Houthi Boumediene in the 1970s.

A movement that continues. At the end of 2021, following a diplomatic crisis between Paris and Algiers triggered by Emmanuel Macron’s comments on Algeria’s history, the Ministries of Youth and Sports, Labor and Vocational Training banned the use of French in administrative documents, communications, letters and correspondence. . ” It was a department managed by young people from the independence generation, so they all mastered the Arabic language », supported former Minister of Youth and Sports Abteresak Sepcak.

Read moreAlgeria: “French is a beautiful language, but English is ahead of it”

The Ministry of Culture and Arts, for its part, demanded that by 2022, Arabic should be used exclusively in all activities and correspondence, excluding exchanges with foreign countries. The use of French is now ” is prohibited » In this department. An internal note recalled the provisions of Law 05/91 of January 16, 1991 Generalization of Arabic “, and Article 3 of the Constitution ” Arabic is the national and official language “In Algeria, the pediments of many ministry departments, including national security, have been written in Arabic and English for two years.

As for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, it has decided Gradually replace teaching in French with English in universities. For this a teacher training program has been started using intensive learning techniques. Until then, the technical sciences (medicine, technology, computer science, mechanical engineering, architecture, hydraulics, biology, etc.) were always taught in French, while the human sciences were completely Arabized (sociology, philosophy, history, psychology, economics, etc. ..).

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We are still far from the idea of ​​the last generation of French speakers in Algeria »

Why reject French like this? ” Above all the French language is a victim of its social “position”, Adeline Medi, an Algerian journalist and writer based in Algiers, responds. It is the language of the so-called “dominant”. English training is a form of social revenge for suburban neighborhoods and the younger generation. Beyond the political decisions – otherwise poorly made – there is a generational change that supports this “switch” to English. »

Waciny Laredj, writer, author of a dozen novels in Arabic, and teacher in Algiers and then at the Sorbonne in Paris, downplays the desire of Algerian authorities to gradually move away from French. ” Algerian is so immersed in French that it is hard to think otherwise. We can always use English as a third language along with Arabic and French. It is not contradictory, it enriches the thinking, allowing Algerians to see differently beyond French. But there is French. Let me share Yasin’s idea that I heard “, he believes.

Arabic-speaking journalist Ghada Benamer believes that giving more space to English in education is not just wishful thinking. separate » Do not compete with French or both languages. ” Everyone agrees that English is an international language, and French is still here. We are still far from the idea of ​​the last generation of French speakers in Algeria. We must approach the question of languages ​​from a cultural, intellectual and linguistic perspective. It is desirable to avoid politicizing the issue and discuss it neutrally. “, he pleads.

Ahmad Seniki, a former lecturer in French-language literature at Annaba University, goes in the same direction by emphasizing the need for “” to consult » Linguists before any political decision regarding languages. ” Linguists have another relationship with languagesHe is analyzing. English is spoken in Britain, America and elsewhere. Finally, English is the national language of which country? French is not the language of France. No colonial language. »