September 03, 2009
Berber Teaching Morocco and Gullible Journos
I really hate these kinds of articles, the wide eyed journo lapping up tripe: BBC NEWS | Africa | Trail-blazing for Morocco's Berber speakers
First, saying "Berbers" faced wide-spread discrimination as such is absurd.
Although Berbers were Morocco's first inhabitants and account for some 60% of Morocco's population, they faced widespread discrimination and it is only now that the language is required to be taught in public schoolDiscrimination in the sense the languages don't have much vehicular utility, but the way this reads, one would think Morocco had some bar to Berbers as an ethnicity.
Now this is the sad part
Their academic qualifications may not help them much on the jobs market, but the availability of a further degree in a subject that was once virtually outlawed in their North African country underscores Berber success in gaining official acceptance of the language.Acceptance, bollocks. Yet more unemployable graduates with useless degrees, instead of spending money on useful studies is a bloody shame.
Further, this sort of lapping up of official misdirection is pitiful:
Although many Amazigh are illiterate, the government has put in place measures to assist schools to teach the written form of the language.First, if there was a real and genuine desire to have a written form of Berber languages that would in fact have some impact on illiteracy, and real reach beyond a few faddish academics and cultural activists, they would have adopted either the Latin alphabet, or if they wanted to go for real historical authenticity, adopted the form of Arabic script that late Medieval and early Modern Chleuh Berbers used to write Chleuh (Tachelhite).
The Royal Institute of Amazigh has overseen the creation of an alphabet based partly on the mystical signs and symbols of the Tuareg found inscribed on tombs and monuments.
This written form is expected to have a unifying effect.
It is essentially a new form of the language which, it is hoped, all Moroccan Berbers will speak and understand.
This Neo Tifinagh is utter tripe. It's bloody window dressing and a waste of time and money from the get go.
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In general, I am sympathetic to the Berber plight.
The description the article gives of Tifinagh being based on "mystical signs and symbols" is ridiculous. Firstly, while it is based on the Tuareg's Tifinagh script, that script is based on the Phoenician alphabet, like the Latin, Arabic and Hebrew alphabets. There is nothing mystical about Neo-Tifinagh, nor is there much historical about it. The article makes it sound like Tifinagh is a set of pictograms or something.
If one talks to these kids coming from the illiterate villages in the mountains and south, it has been my experience that they are quite weary of official attempts to educate them in Tamazight; why not teach them to read and write in a language they can use first, rather than marring them down with a language that doesn't take them anywhere beyond where they're already at? I have heard multiple people from the Sousse describe the attempt to teach Tamazight and promote Tifinagh as a "conspiracy" to keep already debilitated Berber communities as they are. Whatever the validity of that, there is also a hostility to towards standardization, which means rolling over the languages of childhood and daily life towards a dubious and poorly defined end.
The same trouble exists in Algeria, though very few people take it quite as seriously as the Moroccans have, partly (I think) because so many of the non-Kabyle Berbers (Chaouia, Mozabites, etc.) are Arabophiles and see it as a conspiracy to promote French as opposed to Arabic -- for the benefit of the Kabyles. Cultural Berberism is much more popular than officializing Berberism. Even now there is no agreement as to what script to use; Latin, Arabic or neo-Tifinagh. One can find all three in Berber bookstores in Tizi Ouzou and Algiers; and the High Council on Amazighite's website is entirely in French (no Arabic or "Tamazight" page). So nobody is really serious about officialization. But then you have the Algerian mentality that says if you give it to the State, it will destroy it.
Posted by: Kal [corrected by Lounsbury] at September 3, 2009 02:01 PM
Quite: this is one instance where the Conspiracy angle may not be entirely fictional. I can see an official line of thought: "throw the activists whingers a bone, something impractical, useless, that will never catch on at a popular level and let them chew on it." In fact, I believe that is exactly what the Berber lang. policy is.
Regarding the standardisation on "one language" among three divergent languages, that's doomed (unless it were a national effort for a nationally vehicular language, e.g. Arabic, as in Algeria and Morocco where the more dominant Broadcast dialect is seeping in via TV in little drips).
On the Alphabet, I could see some utility for early stage education in say Chleuh using Arabic alphabet, which could transition to Arabic. Easier acquisition of at least moderately useful writing skills, and something that can transition to wider usage (in Arabic). Also might help reinforce the weak degree of literacy most (exceptions of course exist) get in village Quranic school.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 3, 2009 02:27 PM
an alphabet based partly on the mystical signs and symbols of the Tuareg found inscribed on tombs and monuments
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Chleuh R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
Posted by: Alex at September 16, 2009 12:51 PM
"Abdul Alhazred, the Mad Berber Anthropologist" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
Posted by: alle at September 16, 2009 03:17 PM