Algerian Joan of Arc fights against Arabic

Lamine Zakaria, 16 March 2001

At the time when the French language is losing ground, just like any other language, in the face of the progress of the English language whose spread has been tremendously helped by globalisation and the explosion in information technology in the last two decades, Algerian ’intellectuals’ are doing their best to convince the Algerian people that all their problems would go away if they went back to using the French language as the medium of instruction in the schools. A task force headed by Benzaghou is, according to the Algerian media, proposing to make French the medium of instruction in the Algerian schools. The French language will not only be introduced in the second year of the school curriculum, but in later years it will be the main language for teaching science and technology. Arabic will be confined to literary matters and English will be introduced into the curriculum at a much later stage. The idea is to marginalise both Arabic and English. However, no one is willing to explain to the Algerians why the French language did not perform its claimed miracles during more than one century of French colonialism and a few decades of independence since French has really never been abandoned in administration, industry and commerce.

The enthusiastic Algerian Benzaghou, a latter-day Joan of Arc, is now doing just that. However, in the radical reforms he is proposing in order to reshape the education system, no recourse to evidence-based argumentation is made. Benzaghou is using a new paradigm, the force of passion and belief, which transcends the rigours of scientific research. His mission is not to inform policy-makers but to impose the ’truth’ on them. Simply, the missionary Benzaghou is too passionate for the language of Racine to provide empirical or rational justification for his claims, and what is more has no time for that. After all Bernard-Henri Lévy, André Glucksmann, Jean-Francois Kahn, Alexandre Adler and countless other ’intellos’ are not bound by evidence or proofs when it comes to absolving the Algerian generals from war crimes and crimes against humanity. The opinions of Benzaghou and his likes, the ’French intellectual’ eradicationists, are taken to be evidence in themselves, however fashionable nonsense – to use the words of Alan Sokal and Jean Brickmont – they may be. Benzaghou is too busy battling the ’barbarians’ in Algeria who speak a ’weird’ tongue and write in an ’ugly’ script. The adversaries of Benzaghou propose Arabic as the main language of instruction and English as a second language. So the cunning ’barbarians’ are even looking to the mighty Shakespierre juggernaut for help. The battle is assuming gigantic proportions and the stakes are high. The language of Racine is under attack and this is no time for prevarication. A war is to be waged to save the French language from extinction in the shores of Algeria, the country of Lavigerie and Massu.

The ’barbarian’ Arabic which Benzaghou and his likes accuse of breeding ’fundamentalists’, ’closed minds’, ’social misfits’, and ’terrorists’ is bracing itself against imminent attacks by the ’enlightened’ Francophonie legion. A new impetus must be expended to revive the fortunes of la mission civilisatrice .

We call on the Académie Française to make immediately Benzaghou a general, grant him full powers to court-martial and execute the French ’traitors’ who dare, in France not Algeria, opt for English as a medium for the publication of their research. The ’delinquent’ artists and information technology ’thugs’ who use English should be taken, at dead of night, to concentration camps and re-educated. In Algeria, the problem is under control thanks to eradicationism. It is France, the country of Joan of Arc, which is the problem and which is frustrating the work of Benzaghou and his legion. Whereas in Algeria the question of ’who speaks what’ is solved because the ’Algerian intellectuals’ have made ’inquiries’ – of the ideological witch-hunt kind – and found Arabic-based education in the schools to be the cause of the national catastrophe, in France some ’intellectuals’ are sceptical and are therefore hindering the fight against the ’barbarian’ Arabic.

General Lamari and his scribes are doing their best in this epic battle. In his recent ’ordre du jour’, an expression which could not be found in the treacherous modern dictionaries which translate it into agenda, Lamari even used the French past subjunctive tense which the ’coward’ French have deserted. Oh Racine bless them, the scribes of Lamari are really custodians of those gems of circumflexes. This former soldier in the colonial army still appreciates a literary text when he sees one although of late his language skills are somewhat stale. This is understandable since, over the last ten years, he has been very busy expanding the Algerian cemeteries and sending hundreds of thousands of people to meet their Maker. However, he remains very concerned about the standards of French usage. Never mind the human heads on his desk and the atrocities committed by his generals, what seems to worry him and his scribes about the book of Souaidia on the dirty war of Algeria is its literary quality.

Thanks to Benzaghou we now believe in spontaneous generation. One does not need to be a linguist, an eminent researcher, or a famous philosopher to make recommendations on language policy. All one needs is a commitment to eradicationist ideology, a mastery of the French past subjunctive and a passionate belief in the prevention of young Algerians from learning their mother tongue and then moving to English in order to surf the internet.


Anonymous said...

The Fragmentation of Spanish into Multitudes of Mutually Unintelligible Dialects.

Language policy in Spanish-speaking Latin America deals with challenges to the status of Spanish as the official language, a status inherited from the colonial administration of the New World. These challenges come from several sources: THE ASSERTION OF THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS GROUPS, THE ‘DANGER’ OF FRAGMENTATION OF SPANISH INTO A MULTITUDE OF LOCAL DIALECTS, THE GROWING PRESTIGE OF ENGLISH AND INFLUENCE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALONG THE SOUTHERN BORDER OF BRAZIL, CONTACT WITH PORTUGUESE.

In the initial phase of colonization, the Catholic Monarchs and later Charles V required all of their new subjects to learn Spanish, just as their predecessors had imposed the learning of Castilian on the conquered Arab territories in order to bind them more closely together in the nation governed by Castile. However, it soon became clear that the linguistic diversity of the New World was too great to allow for the immediate implantation of Spanish, and some allowance had to be made for the usage of indigenous languages in teaching and evangelization. In 1570 Phillip II reluctantly authorized a policy of bilingualism in which instruction could be imparted in ‘the’ language of each Viceroyalty: Nahautl and in New Spain and Quechua in Peru, with the consequent extension of these two languages into territories where they were not spoken natively. Even this measure was not enough, however, and in 1596 Phillip II recognized the existent multilingualism: Spanish for administration and access to the elite, and a local indigenous language for evangelization and daily communication in indigenous communities. This policy lead to a separation of colonial society into a minority of Spanish/creole Spanish-speakers governing an indigenous majority speaking one of many indigenous languages. The separation became so great that it all but halted the Hispanization of rural areas and created local indigenous elites with considerable autonomy from the central adminstration. A reassertion of central authority commenced in 1770 when Carlos III declared Spanish to be the only language of the Empire and ordered the administrative, judicial and ecclesiastic authorities to extinguish all others. After Independence, the new nations and their successors maintained the offical status of Spanish as a means of strengthening national unity and pursuing modernization through education. This tendency was reinforced at the turn of the century through the 1940’s with notions of Social Darwinism, in which the vigorous hybrid groups of Latin America would eventually overcome the ‘weaker’ indigenous groups. It is only since World War II that this policy has suffered any substantial change.

Several processes converged in the post-War period to shake the linguistic status quo. One is the growth of industrialization, which requires an educated workforce and thus lends urgency to effective education. Another is agrarian reform, which raises the social status of the farmer while increasing his need for vocational training. These two processes create a growing pressure to learn the language of technology and mechanization, Spanish. As a counterpoint to this pressure, there was an understanding among policy makers of the failure of the pre-War incorporationist policies to acheive their goal of Hispanization. The confluence of these tendencies was a shift towards the usage of indigenous languages in primary schools to ease the transition to Spanish. Moreover, the dynamic of questioning the entire model of development grew, a dynamic that was reinforced by the emergence of indigenous activists educated in the new national schools. These contradictions came to a head during the labor and peasant movements of the 1950’s and 60’s, where calls for the preservation of indigenous languages served as a vehicle for the preservation of entire indigenous societies. The subsequent official response to these movements had diverse outcomes throughout Latin America. In Mexico, the new indigenous consciousness continued to grow unabated, as it did among the Bolivian Aymara and Ecuadorian Quechua, and to a lesser extent among the other Quechua speakers of Bolivia and Peru. Elsewhere, many organizations were driven into marginality or outright armed resistence, with the paradoxical result that often the only officially-tolerated supporters of indigenous languages were foreigners: scholars pursuing linguistic or anthropological fieldwork, linguists trained by the Summer Institute of Linguistics for the translation and dissemination of Christian texts, or members of other non-governmental organizations engaged in aid or relief work.

Only recently have indigenous defensors of indigenous languages found any standing on the national stage. This new tolerance has been said to reflect the neo-liberal reforms required as conditions for loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the early 1990’s, with the threat of Communist takeover having receeded. There are now a multitude of protective measures that go from bilingual primary education (Honduras), to constitutional protection (Colombia), to the establishment of indigenous languages as co-official with Spanish (Guatemala).

With respect to the status of Spanish among native speakers, Independence lead to the creation of national educational institutions and a desire to reform Spanish orthography so as to facilitate its learning by American speakers, as well as to foster a literary tradition independent of Spain. Such reforms come to little in the face of the turbulence created by Independence, but a second round of standardization began as part of the modernization process initiated around 1870. Increasing immigration to Latin America and the strengthening of trends towards democratization lead to the fear among the intellectual elite that the linguistic unity of Latin America would collapse into a cacophomy of local variants, much as the Latin of the Roman Empire fragmented into the variety of Romance languages.

The final threat to the official status of Spanish is the growing contact with other European languages: with English throughout Latin America, and with Portuguese along the southern border of Brazil. Contact with English arises through migration to the United States for economic or political reasons or sojourns for business or education. This contact is particularily acute in the case of Puerto Rico, where its adminstrative dependency on the United States has led to an extensive diffusion of English, as well as the threatened imposition of English as the official language should Puerto Rico ever gain statehood. This threat has sparked intellectual debates that echo the Spanish-vs.-indigenous-language debates heard on the mainland: language is an expression of identity, perhaps the fundmental expression of identity, and it should not be given up lightly.

Selected references
Angel Rama (1996) The Lettered City. Duke University Press.
[spelling reform after independence, p. 43ff; foundation of Spanish American Academies, Cuervo, Caro & Bello p. 59ff]
Julio Ramos (1989) Desenceuntros de la modernidad en América Latina. Literatura y política en el siglo XIX. Tierra Firme, México.
[Ch. II sobre Bello]
Julio Ramos (1996) Paradojas de la letra. Ediciones eXcultura, Caracas, Miami, Quito.
[Ch. 1 sobre Bello]



The priority of the language spoken and written on the mainland on Latin America. was the central thesis of this writing, the "barbaric nature of the Native American languages" prevented, in his view, they have to exert any influence on the Spanish of America. The enforcement of the Academy would do the rest. This was trying to counter the forecast made by Andres Bello in the preface to his Grammar of 1847, feared that the profusion of regional varieties that "clouds and flooded much of what is written in America, and altering the structure of language, tends to turn it into a multitude of dialects irregular graduates barbarians "for the design, linguistic and political inextricably only unit of the tongue" cult "would ensure the unity of the Hispanic world. By contrast, the Colombian philologist Rufino Jose Cuervo, which supported the diagnosis of Bello of the possible fragmentation of FRAGMENTATION IN A VARIETY OF MUTUALLY UNINTELLIGIBLE LANGUAGES, warned against the use of written language to measure the unit of language, considering it a veil that covers the local. "

Translated from Spanish: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castellano_neutral


The "SPANISH" LANGUAGE: Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries

The section on modern colloquial Spanish, especially that spoken on television, is discouraging. It is often difficult to understand, even for people from other Spanish-speaking countries. The film makes light of this, but it is a pathetic decline from the beautiful Spanish promoted by the Spanish Academy. Even some Latin American students at Stanford use a slang unknown to me and often to other Latin Americans. Some WAISers defend the variants as the expression of a people, but they seem to have a romantic longing for the good old times when the inhabitants of one valley could not understand those of the next. John Wonder complains about this, and about the machine-gun like speech of young people. Indeed, in the Bogota I first knew, the "Athens of America," the intellectual elite spoke a very beautiful Spanish. Now SCOLA rebroadcasts news programs from Cali. The young women announcers on the program rattle off Spanish is high-pitched voices without the intonation indicating comprehension. The decline of Spanish in Colombia is a tragedy, admittedly insignificant in comparison with the major tragedy of life there.

Ronald Hilton - 4/15/01



Is Spanish in danger?

It seems that not everyone understands very well in Spain, a source of misunderstanding for their common language. Receipt stupor scanned the letter that a college Creixell (Tarragona) submitted by parents to allow their children to attend two hours a week for Arabic language classes. Further to the issue, the letter written in Catalan, Arabic, Spanish is obvious that the co-official languages in Catalonia, and thus forced to use by the administration. In short, it puts a higher position in Arabic into Spanish, in an effort to remove him from social life, where a majority in Catalonia. WITH THIS AND OTHER ACTIONS, WE ATTEMPT TO "CIVIL DEATH" IN A LANGUAGE AND CULTURE VITAL TO BUSINESSES AROUND THE WORLD, DEPRIVING STUDENTS OF KNOWLEDGE OF SPANISH THROUGH MARGINALIZE NOT BEHIND THE CATALAN (WHICH TURN MARGINALIZES OFFICIALLY ANDALUSIA ANDALUSIA MAJORCAN AND VALENCIAN), AND WHERE APPROPRIATE, GALICIAN AND BASQUE, BUT BEHIND ENGLISH, FRENCH AND NOW ARABIC.



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