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Languages in Algeria

Language has been an eminent part of Algerian history and has experienced a lot of contestation, sensitivity, and complexity throughout the years (Brook, 2016). Arabs and Berbers both experienced the process of acculturation and identity reconstruction as soon as the French invaded the country. All the languages that are being used in Algeria today are in position due to the historical and socio-cultural, socio-linguistic development. The linguistic history of Algeria can be traced back to the invasion of French and building an education system similar to their system in France. This system landed up the Algerian students in a fix as they were exposed to a language that they have not heard before and have no understanding of (Brook, 2016). The influence of the French language on their Islamic culture and language bothered the Algerians and 1926 saw the emergence of the very first anti-colonial group Étoile Nord-Africaine (ENA) which demanded increased rights for Muslims. All these resisted French culture and language in the country.

In 1962 Algeria got its independence, and the two languages that were used in schools in that time was the French language and the classical Arabic or liturgical used in the religious contexts. The independence also brought a declaration of classic Arabic language as the official language according to the Algerian national constitution (Benrabah 2007a).

After independence, one thing that Algerians wanted to focus on was to build, restore, and reconstruct their identity through the Arabic language and Arabic individuality and Islamic values (Hadjarab, 2000). In order to live up to this, the first president of Algeria through linguistic Arabization in primary schools making classic Arabic mandatory at all school levels achieved results. This was followed by many problems as the country lacked qualified teachers to teach classic Arabic and because of the early dominance of the French language, there was a preference of French language in both government and urban society. Nevertheless, the process of Arabization was not kept at halt and was continued in the 1970s. By the 1980s the government of Algeria had plans to arabize the university sector of the country and 1985 experienced end to the bilingual education system in Algeria. 

Around 2002, Tamazight also came to be recognized as a national language and the entire country was introduced to the language in 2003. In 2008, the government of Algeria had started reintroducing French in the education system (Slackman, 2013). Algeria now has four spoken languages which include literary Arabic, Arabic with regional dialects, French, Tamazight, and other varieties of Berber language. Regardless of these languages used in the country, the official language remains to be only one that is literary Arabic (Hamzaoui, 2017).

Algeria society is understood as a society that is characterized by socio-linguistic multiplicity and often higher education is seen as getting comprised if only the Arabic position is enforced on the people. The question of whether there should be Arabization of the higher education should be there remains persistence. The belief that because of this the students might face marginalization and isolation from the progressive global trends is widely discussed,

References for Language In-Education Planning in Algeria

Benrabah, M. (2007a). Language-in-education planning in Algeria: Historical development and current issues. Language Policy 6, 225–52.

Brooks, M. D. (2016). By book and school: The politics of educational reform in France and Algeria during the early Third Republic. Unpublished master’s dissertation., University of Central California.

Hadjarab, M. (2000). L’Algérie au péril de l’Arabisation. Paris: In Lettres sur la Loi de la Généralisation de l’Arabisation.

 Hamzaoui, C. (2017). Multilingualism: A challenge to the educational system in Algeria. International Journal of Humanities, Arts, Medicine and Sciences 5, 75–82.

Slackman, M (2013). "In Algeria, a tug of war for young minds." The New York Times.

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