Anyone who writes about Algerian language policy is obliged to mention the Arabisation laws of 1991 and 1996, stipulating, among other things, that Arabic must be the language of all domestic administrative or corporate correspondence, of all television and conferences, and (by 2000) all university instruction. Fewer of those writers feel obliged to mention the fact that no attempt has ever been made to put these laws into practice, and that they are flagrantly violated on just about every Algerian street every day. None that I've read mention the obvious parallels in recent French history, to which Hagège devotes some attention:
Au termes de [la loi Bas-Lauriol de 1975], l'emploi du français était rendu obligatoire dans les échanges commerciaux, la publicité et les contrats de travail ; une circulaire d'octobre 1982 étendit ces dispositions aux étrangers exportant en France leurs produits, et un décret de mars 1983 imposait aux établissements d'enseignement et de recherche dépendant de l'Etat l'emploi des terminologies créées par les commissions officielles.However, this law rapidly found itself "en voie d'obsolescence par défaut d'application" [on the way to becoming obsolete for lack of being put into practice]. The government responded in 1994 with the Toubon law:
[By the terms of the Bas-Lauriol law of 1975, the use of French was made obligatory in commercial exchanges, advertising and employment contracts; a circular of October 1982 extended this to foreigners exporting their products to France, and a decree of March 1983 imposed on State teaching and research institutions the use of the terminologies created by the official committees.]
[E]lle étend à de nouveaux domaines la portée de la loi Bas-Lauriol : codes du travail, examens et concours, marques de fabrique, règlements intérieurs des entreprises [...]) Enfin, elle est assortie de sanctions civiles en cas de transgression : cinq mille francs si les contrevenants sont des personnes physiques et vingt-cinq mille francs si ce sont des personnes morales.Part of this law was understandably struck down by the Constitutional Council as a violation of freedom of expression. The rest remained on the books, but, according to Hagège, continued to be openly violated with near-impunity. To make matters worse:
[It extends the scope of the Bas-Lauriol law to new domains: labour codes, exams and competitions, trademarks, business-internal regulations... Moreover, it is furnished with civil penalties in case of violation: 5000 francs if the violator is a physical person, 25000 if it is a legal person.]
Les ministres du général de Gaulle redoutaient ses colères contre ceux qui, dans l'exercice de leurs fonctions, s'étaient exprimés en anglais. Les ministres d'aujourd'hui n'ont rien à craindre de tel quand, à l'occasion de conférences de presse, de réunions internationales, de discours dans les universités, ils utilisent l'anglais, soit parce qu'ils se piquent de donner une image de modernité, soit parce qu'ils sont convaincus que l'usage du français ne confère plus de prestige.Substitute "Boumedienne" for "de Gaulle", "French" for "English", and "Arabic" for "French", and this statement could have been a direct quote from any recent Arabophone Algerian publication.
[General de Gaulle's ministers feared his wrath against anyone who, in a public capacity, expressed himself in English. The ministers of today have nothing to fear when - in press conferences, in international meetings, in speeches at universities - they use English, whether because they pride themselves on presenting an image of modernity or because they are convinced that the use of French is no longer prestigious.]
The comparison isn't perfect, of course: the status of Arabic in Algeria is far more precarious than that of French in France by any measure. Nevertheless, the parallels in attitudes, linguistic ideologies, and proposed responses are striking. I suspect that this is part of the problem: solutions that work well for France should not necessarily be expected to work well in Algeria (and observably don't), given the profound differences between the two countries. For one thing, Algeria has much less of a tradition of regarding the state as a basically benevolent force expressing the popular will, which makes state-centric approaches to language policy less likely to be effective. For another, attempts to regulate oral language use can hardly be effective if they fail to take into account the fact of diglossia, which is fundamental for Arabic but barely exists for French.