The EFF English Proficiency Index showed Thursday that Algeria is nearly at the bottom of the world rankings for 2019.
The Netherlands topped the list, followed by Sweden, Norway and Denmark, as well as Portugal, Belgium and Croatia in the 14th rankings, which are classified as “very linguistic proficiency”.
At a very low level, Algeria was listed in the ninetieth slot out of 100 behind Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, in a sign that the English language is weak and not functional in Algeria; amid all the speeches and slogans that imprint “imperative” empowerment of living language in teaching at the level of schools and universities.
The disengagement from the French language is still described as the boldest step since the country’s independence 57 years ago, as the Algerian government seeks to popularize the use of English in education and other official dealings.
“Adopting English is a long overdue duty,” says Ahmed Kheireddine, a young journalist. “It will help a lot to improve education and research, increase student performance and help them study abroad.”
Kheireddine highlights the tendency of several institutions in Algeria to adopt English in their editorials, in the form of the Ministry of Defense, which is now using English in every way, which contributed to the destabilization of relations between Algeria and Paris.
This prompted the French ambassador in Algeria to launch a statement in which he expressed the hope that Algeria will not abandon the French language because it is “old” as it reflects the strength of relations between the two countries, he said.
“Algeria has decided to turn to English because of the people’s insistence on the need to repudiate dependency on France, and the Algerians are convinced that Shakespeare’s language will give Algeria the desired addition, away from the francophone aura that has produced hallucinations,” he said.
“It is not possible to understand the political will expressed in Algeria today to shift from relying on French as an official language along with the national languages of Arabic and Tamazight, only by understanding and dismantling the contextual background of the roots of the deep and ideological conflict between French as yesterday’s language and Arabic as a mother tongue. As a cultural and civilizational asset, it reflects the essence of Algerian identity”, he added.
Hajjam, a research professor in media and communication at the University of Ben M’hidi in Oum el Bouaghi province, points out that the empowerment of the French language after Algeria’s independence as a facade of the political system and its official ceremonial language later produced a patronizing culture that looks at exclusion and marginalization of the elements of national identity, such as religion and the two national languages namely Arabic and Tamazight.
Hajjam adds: “Despite the decision of Arabization adopted by the political authority in 1973, the penetration and influence of executives in the corridors of the state and the almost absolute domination of the administrative apparatus, made the decision of Arabization as formal, aimed at inspiring the national public sincerely intention to complete the construction of the national state’s sovereignty.”
Hajjam notes that this exclusion continued to reflect a stark paradox in Algeria’s socio-cultural environment, creating two communities within one community, a self-proclaimed modernist enlightenment-oriented minority and a conservative, marginalized majority in the political frontiers.
This paradox was overturned by the popular movement that produced the Revolution, which wants to rid Algeria of all forms of French subordination and tight control over the reins of the state and decision-making.
“Today, the people, with their enlightened national scientific elites, want to extend popular sovereignty over all state institutions,” he added. “This can only be done by ridding the Algerian tongue of the poison of the French language, which has manifested itself as a dominant language of cultural artistic creativity and literature.”
Hajjam also refers to the caveats to support the fission in the national thinking cell and the demolition of all bridges of communication between the Arabized elites and a French-oriented elite which was created by the media and which provided all the conditions of political, cultural and administrative empowerment.
In his perception that the Algerian people and their scientific and political elites, the latter see the initiative of the higher education sector in adopting English as the language of official documentation and supporting scientific research, a historic opportunity to establish an epistemological break with French not as a language of thought but as a psycho-social, cultural, and competing entity of the socio-cultural structure of Algerian society.
In exchange for the assertion that “Algerian conscience is rampant and ready to cut off the umbilical cord with French as a dead language globally and dying even in the home of France,” says Ahmed Kheireddine, the adoption of English as a second language instead of French in the field of scientific research, came as a result of the popular demand that changed many of the data.
Ahmed Kheireddine links the issue with Tayeb Bouzid, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, who has ordered all university deans to use Arabic and English formally, knocking an extra nail into the coffin of Molière’s language.
For his part, Abdelhak Bensaadi, professor of political science at the University of Algiers, stresses: “It is necessary to deal with the issue objectively and based on the facts of reality, and therefore the Arabic and Amazigh languages must be rehabilitated in the administration and society.”
“International political, economic, scientific and other research works are conducted primarily in English, while France is in a state of anxiety due to the declining use of the French language in scientific research and its retreat at the global level”, he underscored to this effect.