Algerians Say ‘Non’ to French in Official Documents

Published July 12th, 2017 - 01:07 GMT
French, Arabic and Berber languages are all used in Algeria (Flickr)
French, Arabic and Berber languages are all used in Algeria (Flickr)

More than half-a-century after independence from France, Algerians are saying “non” - or “la”, to be more accurate - to the use of French in official documents.

Last month, the Algerian postal service took the decision to remove French from all official documents and records, to be replaced by Arabic.

Algerian journalist Zoubir Fadel tweeted about the move.

The Board of Directors of the Algerian postal service has removed French from all official documents and records and adjusted them to Arabic, and Algerians [are saying] #No_to_French_on_official_documents

As news spread of this change, the hashtag “no to French on official documents” was launched on social media.

The trend has so far accumulated over 13,000 tweets, according to BBC trending, a relatively large number given that Algeria’s most popular social media platform is Facebook.

In an arabized state, documents must be arabized.

France was the colonial power in Algeria for over 130 years until 1962. Independence followed a long and bloody war, meaning that for many Algerians, France - or at least French influence in Algeria - is associated with violence and exploitation.

France tried to obscure Algerian national identity. Through the efforts of Algerian revolutionaries they did not succeed. Now it's your turn to get rid of its language.

It is the language of colonialism and backwardness, and the only people in Algeria who would be proud of it are those who have weak personalities

When the national anthem was written in blood, it was not written in the language of the occupier. Respect it and be steadfast, for it is our language.

Algeria’s official languages are Arabic and Berber, but French continues to be widely used in education, politics and business. Previous governments have called for Arabic to be more widely employed in official documents and public services, however there has been little change in practice.

In 1991, Algeria implemented a law for the "generalization of the use of the Arabic language", but it was frozen a not long afterwards. Meanwhile, more recent presidents, including current leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, meanwhile have had more positive attitudes towards the use of French.

Speaking to news site Echorouk following the postal service's announcement, Dr Osman Saadi, president of Algeria's National Association for the Defense of the Arabic Language, suggested that it was "clear" what was holding Arabization back in Algeria.

He claimed that a "francophone lobby controls the state, attacking the Arabic language and attempting to eliminate it."

Some even used the recent hashtag to push for individuals to make changes in their personal language usage. Despite antagonism towards the colonial history, the prestige associated with the French language nonetheless endures, and it is taught as a core subject alongside Arabic and maths in schools.

Why not move this campaign towards all our affairs? [For instance, write] your name on social media in Arabic. We must all cherish this rich language.

Meanwhile, a number of Algerian Twitter users suggested a different alternative language to French. Berber languages are spoken by just short of a third of Algerians, while Arabic is spoken by around 80 percent of the population.

We demand the Amazigh [Berber] language in education and official documents - isn’t it better than the language of the occupier that you love?

Berber was only given official status in Algeria in February 2016, meaning it could appear on official documents, although Arabic remains the official language of government. It was recognized as a national language in 2002, allowing it to be taught in schools.

Berbers make up 13 million of Algeria's 39 million population.


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