English in Carthage or the "Tenth Crusade"

English in Carthage; or, the "Tenth Crusade":

The French language, which was formerly used extensively for communication within Tunisia, is having its role restricted to that of an international language (i.e., used for communication outside the country). This is to some extent the result of the controversial charges levelled by the Arabization militants against its excessive use, as discussed in the previous section. However, in this new role, French is now competing with English. Formerly, English in Tunisia was studied for no particular purpose other than that of being part of an educated person's intellectual and cultural baggage. Now its role as an important tool for global outreach is being reflected all over the country. More business is conducted with the anglophone world and with these countries like Japan and Thailand whose people do not share a common language but who are likely to operate in English.

Technology exchanges, particularly with the USA, highlight the need for English, and researchers are increasingly feeling the pressure to read English medium journals and periodicals to keep up with developments in their fields. Oftentimes, they feel that their research will not reach a wide enough audience unless it is written in English. Knowing this foreign language may therefore give the businessman or researcher an advantage in her/his work. There is also a less tangible psychological preference for English rather than French emerging. In the same vein one can perceive a general impression that pleads in favour of greater use of English by a greater number of people who feel competent to speak it.

3.1. French and English in search of Tunisian Students' Hearts The contest that opposes English to French can be seen through a number of indices: some are objective and quantifiable, others are subjective and impressionistic. Let us then consider the academic arena as a battlefield with the two major linguistic opponents face to face. The fight for linguistic leadership begins at the university. French and English as competitors try to be the linguistic commodity that students seek to acquire. In this respect, the number of students who register at the English and French departments will be an indicator of the demand for one language or the other.

3.2. An 'English' Surge at Schools and Universities Figures issued by the Ministry of Higher Education in Tunisia show that a greater number of students choose to major in English. Le Guide de l'Etudinat (the Student's Guide) for the academic year 2000-2001 indicates that the students who have opted for the study of foreign languages are classified as follows:

Academic Year Target Language Number of students
2000 - 2001 English 2960
2000 - 2001 French 2420
2000 - 2001 Spanish 0180
Figure 1

It appears from the sets of figures above that English attracts most language students in Tunisia and that this preference has been going on for some time, more precisely over the last fifteen years or so. 3.3. A Positive Attitude towards English The other index in favour of English is the positive attitude shown by pupils and students alike towards this language when viewed in comparison with French. The positive attitude towards English has been addressed at great length in a number of studies. The most recent ones (Payne 1983; Twyford and McCune 1984; Kennedy 1985; Bahloul and Seymour 1991; Daoud 1998; Walters 1998) highlight the growing appeal of English among younger Tunisians; they also signal the waning of French and its legacy following the sweeping changes that the country has undergone in recent years.
4.0. The Tenth Crusade (1987-2000): 'Anglifying' Carthage

In a recent article entitled "New Year Happy," Keith Walters (1998) presents a vivid picture of the 'English' flame in Modern Tunisia. He takes us outside the university walls to identify some symptoms of an 'English' epidemic that threatens to tear apart the entire linguistic fabric of Tunisian society. The languages most at risk in this hazardous area seem to be French and Standard Arabic. For the purpose of this paper, I will only focus on the section of the article that deals with 'English in the ambient environment'. More precisely, I will take a close look at his discussion of English in the broadcast media.

4.1. English in the Broadcast Media. According to Walters, English has made significant gains in the domains of radio/TV broadcasting and the written press -- domains that were traditionally and exclusively operated by French and Arabic. This major breakthrough, Walters explains, has led to the inclusion of daily programs in English at the International Service of Tunis Radio (Radio Tunis: Chaine Internationale) and an increasing presence of the English language in code-switched utterances at most state-controlled radio and TV channels across the country. Another aspect of the recent development of English in the broadcasting scene is illustrated by the growing popularity of English language music in national and local radio stations. Most songs have English lyrics. Younger Tunisians can easily recite the lyrics to these songs, but they can hardly understand the meaning of what they recite. Walters has, however, belittled the role of foreign broadcasting in propagating the English 'bug' within Tunisia. In this country, as in other parts of North Africa, sky television has invaded most homes. As a result, more and more programs using English as a medium of communication have become available to Tunisian viewers, allowing thus a greater exposure to the language. For instance BBC World Service and CNN were on every lip during the Gulf War and since then the two channels have earned their place in the Tunisian household and among news consumers.

4.2. English in the Written Press. As far as the written press is concerned, the 1990s have witnessed the emergence of two Tunisian newspapers in English: Tunisia News and English Digest. The former is a government organ, meant to be read by the 'selected few' as the price of one single copy amounts to the equivalent of two US dollars. The paper is given free of charge on board aeroplanes and in government offices outside the country, the aim being to reach for a wider international audience. English Digest, on the other hand, tries to address a different readership with special interest in pedagogical matters such as proposing French equivalents to English idioms. Another significant feature is the proliferation of English accounts and cartoon stories in the columns of the Tunisian Francophone press. This may be seen as a clear sign of the growing influence of English in the written press.

4.3. English in Advertising. As noted earlier in this study, mass marketing is a new phenomenon in North Africa, one that is often associated with the economic liberalisation of the late 1980s. Prior to that time, most organisations and state-run enterprises had little reason to advertise their products or services. With the new economic direction, however, advertising has become a necessity. Not surprisingly, the advent of advertising has created a new space for the use of English in Tunisia. Tunisian Francophone daily papers now run a few of their job advertisements in the English language, particularly when the job description requires the mastery of English. Similarly, adverts for products draw upon English in an attempt to secure a significant share of the market at home and abroad. Equally important, perhaps, is the frequent recourse to English in billboard-style advertising. This seems to be the case when ads feature designers' products like brand-name jeans and other fashionable clothing items. As Walters has pointed out, in the circumstances, "English is used more for its snob value than for communicative purposes" (Walters 1998:38). A similar explanation would certainly apply to the never-ending flow of English words and catch phrases that manufacturers print on certain types of clothes such as T-shirts, sports jackets, and jogging suits. A curious eye can easily come across these slogans on people's garments: "American Dream", "I am special, I drink Special", "Make Love, not War", "My Ex's in Texas", etc. Such instances of English usage in a Tunisian setting can only be the extension of "a larger world-wide phenomenon," which Walters defines as "the diffusion of an international youth culture of consumption that comes packaged in the English language." (Walters 1998:38)

4.4. Comments. English, as we have just seen, occupies a favourable position in advertising. It is most probable that it will gain more ground as a promotional tool in Tunisia, reinforcing thus the role that it plays. One of the merits of English in the advertising field, to borrow Walters' expression, is "its novelty and its cachet as the primary vehicle by which the international youth culture of consumption is spread" (Walters 1998:52). The English input in advertising, as is its contribution to 'Pop Music', will most likely enhance the positive attitudes that younger Tunisians entertain towards this global language. The key question, however, is whether in the near or distant future the positive attitude that younger Tunisians seem to have vis à vis English will challenge and undermine the high esteem in which the French language and its culture have long been held by many Tunisian intellectuals. These intellectuals usually form the Francophile junta that continues to be at the forefront of the political scene and still has a powerful influence on various aspects of Tunisian public life.
the Francophile junta seems to live in constant fear of what Walters (1998) calls the 'seeping spread' of English in Tunisia - a phenomenon which is more difficult to fight than a well-defined, coercive strategy for linguistic domination.
The intellectual elite, the decision makers and all the stakeholders in Tunisian affairs are now fully convinced that any access to "modernity" and "high technology" is necessarily across the Anglo-American path. This may explain the increasing number of exchange programs that Tunisian higher education institutions have set up and implemented in collaboration with British and American universities. In an age of globalisation, Tunisians are doomed to open up their respective countries to foreign influence as this appears to be the quickest route out of isolationism to internationalism.
English will make Tunisia a more attractive place for English-speaking tourists to visit, for anglophone corporations to transact business, and for English-speaking Tunisians seeking to keep abreast of international developments in many domains.

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