Sunday, March 25, 2007

How many ways can you write Tamazight?

I noticed an interesting set of articles in Info-Soir the other day on Tamazight (Berber) language teaching in Algeria. It confirms that Algeria has not adopted any one script as official for Tamazight: rather, all three are in use, depending on wilaya. Latin is used where Kabyle is spoken, Arabic in much of the Chaoui-speaking area, and Tifinagh in the far south. M. Touati of the Ministry of Education reports that 119,000 children in Algeria are currently studying Tamazight, 35,000 of them in a new primary school program; however, they complain of a shortage of teachers.

I'm finding it hard to gather exactly where the language is being taught, partly because the Ministry of Education website is among the slowest on earth. But it seems that, in 2001-2, it was being taught in only 5 wilayas, mainly in Kabyle-speaking areas: Bouira, Boumerdes, Tizi-Ouzou, Bejaia, and Biskra. Orders regarding the expansion of Tamazight education from 2000 were issued to a much longer list of wilayas - Oum el-Bouaghi, Batna, Bejaia, Biskra, Bouira, Tamanrasset, Tizi-Ouzou, Setif, Oran, El Bayadh, Illizi, Boumerdes, Khenchela, Tipasa, Ghardaia; but it is reported that four of these, El Bayadh, Oran, Tipasa, and Illizi, have ceased to teach it, and in Biskra and Tamanrasset it is reported that most of the few who have taken it up are Kabyle families.

I've written somewhat on this topic before, incidentally, as Awal nu Shawi recently reminded me. One of these days I need to update that essay.


David Marjanović said...

Having 3 scripts is not necessarily a bad thing. The Serbians really do use both of theirs.

But of course, in theory, theory and practice are the same; in practice, they aren't. When there's a shortage of teachers for even one script... :-/

David Marjanović said...

<stay-the-course face>


</stay-the-course face>

Yeah, I mean the Serbs in Serbia and probably Bosnia too.

shawi said...

Hi Lameen,

The Mezabs tend to prefer the Arabic script too.

I share your frustrattion. No reliable stats out there.

Using different scripts is not a problem. It will be solved in the future. What we need is to establish a national academy for Tamazight studies, with branches in the concerned wilayas and let the experts do their job. That is where you come in :)