The “Algerian manga” post from earlier in the week sparked a discussion about language and script between @AzzeddineCh and @ayatghanem (ArabLit contributor Nadia Ghanem) to which I was the third wheel. As long as I was listening in, I thought I’d share:

The discussion began when @AzzeddineCh shared pleasure over Z-Link’s plan to publish their manga not just in French, but also in derja (Algerian colloquial) and Amazigh (sometimes called Berber), to which @ayatghanem and I hallelujahed.

@AzzeddineCh added that “entertainment and art” were probably the best way toward a standardized derja, which has been used in theatre, but generally has had a limited use in print. Since derja is a colloquial (largely spoken) form, it doesn’t have the same standardization as formal, written Arabic.

@AyatGhanem noted that she was curious to see what script would be used for the derja comics, whether it would be the Arabic or the Latin alphabet, with an addendum:

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I threw out using the Tifinagh script, which @AzzeddineCh didn’t find very practical:

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@Ayatghanem clarified that, generally, Algerian writers who write in Tamazight use Latin or Arabic characters, but said that she finds the Arabic characters with Tamazight words “such a headache, not all letters link so a word looks ended when it isn’t,” and added that she’d prefer a revival of Tifinagh, as neither Arabic or Latin letters are up to the task of scripting Tamazight.

@AzzeddineCh argued that Tifinagh manga “would be good for a museum,” not everyday reading, and that Tamazight isn’t a good idea, that instead the comics should be in regional Amazigh languages — such as Kabyle, Shawi, or Mzab — in either Arabic or Latin script, to reach the maximum number of people.

@Ayatghanem at this point said, in several tweets*:

Well of course, Tifinagh at the moment is only taught in 1st year Tamazight and not very well at that; no one reads it. We are lucky that we have an alphabet; many languages don’t, so we should go back to it and stop being lazy or constantly trying to find a route that takes us far from what we already have. It’s not a difficult alphabet either. As for the language, ideally it should be that which corresponds to the area: Taqvaylit for Lqvayel, Chaouia for Chaoui, etc. But really what we need is standardisation, only a dedicated academy can do that. Morocco has already taken that step.

@AzzeddineCh agreed “absolutely” about standardization, but said that “going back to Tifinagh would take decades before you get usable content,” adding that, to get started, using other scripts in daily use makes sense.

@Ayatghanem agreed, adding that she still thinks Tifinagh would be a better investment: “i’ve been making my family read the Tamazight books produced in Latin and Arabic script, they really struggle with both.” Then she wrote:*

I found a school one with a part in Tifinagh, we placed the alphabet in front of us & read the texts and the ends and beginnings of words were clear, the pronunciation too. Reading and understanding turned out to be easy and straightforward.

And, importantly:

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@AzzeddineCh took off with this, saying that all things were possible together: “a learning/entertaining manga in both Tifinagh and another script” alongside a “proper academy,” the two running as parallel processes, adding that parallel processes were necessary because Tifinagh had become marginal.

@Ayatghanem agreed about parallel processes while worrying that temporary solutions could become permanent and wondering how Morocco is going about these processes. The discussion continued, with @Azzeddine breaking it down into two questions: What should we do now? And what should we do for the future ?

*I modified to standardized English prose, but you can see @Ayatghanem’s original in Twitterspeak.

5 thoughts on “How To Foster Multilingualism in Algeria?

  1. The Moroccan poet & oral joust master Ahmed Assid, who works at the Amazigh Cultural Center in Rabat (if memory serves) once assured me that Tifinagh can be mastered by children in a semester’s teaching. The adoption of Tifinagh as the writing base for Amazigh in Morocco was clearly a way of avoiding the alphabetas/aliphbaa’s of the oldest colonizing language (Arabic) & the most recent one (French).

    1. As someone who lived and taught in Morocco for some time, I can testify that Morocco is doing slightly better in this respect. The adoption of Tifinagh there and the establishment of the Amazigh Cultural Center (a de facto language academy for Amazigh) are good steps, but the value is more symbolic than real. Academies can standardize languages, but propagating them and encouraging people to learn them is something else. Still symbols matter in asserting (linguistic) identity.

  2. Hi Pierre,

    I am sure Tifinigh is intuitive enough be learnt in a semester by kids. The issue is the 30% of Algerians which are native of an Amazigh language without being able to write/read it. Those people won’t learn Tifinigh in 6 months, hence the need of two processes

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