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The language gap in North African schools

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When children start school in an industrialized country, their native language is for the most part the one used by the teachers. Conversely, in many developing countries, the former colonial languages have been proclaimed languages of instruction within the classroom at the expense of native indigenous languages. A third scenario is something in-between: The language used at school is related to the home language but is a significantly different variety. This is the case in the Arabic-speaking world where the native dialects are used at home and on the street while Modern Standard Arabic is used in education and in other formal domains. In the latter two cases, the stakes are higher for the students from the very onset of their learning journey: They must acquire a second linguistic system and develop literacy skills, both at the same time. In North Africa, students acquire their native Arabic dialects at home before starting school. Some students also acquire Berber in the areas where it’s still transmitted naturally. Since the Arabic vernaculars aren’t standardized or officially recognized by the state, they’re not taught at schools and there aren’t any textbooks or dictionaries aimed at native speakers. As a result, students must develop literacy in Modern Standard Arabic, a language that diverges to a significant extent from the native vernaculars. There are different words that refer to the same things and even aspects of the grammar are different. For example, while Tunisian Arabic has seven subject pronouns (eight in some varieties), Modern Standard Arabic has twelve, including the dual pronouns that don’t exist in vernacular Arabic. As a result, Tunisian students have to make a conscious effort not only to develop literacy in the standard variety of Arabic, but also to learn how to speak it extemporaneously in order to communicate successfully in the classroom. In addition to Modern Standard Arabic, schools in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco introduce French. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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