Will English replace French as the new main official language?


According to a study commissioned by the British Council, 40% of young Moroccans believe that it is more important to learn English than French, against only 10% who think the opposite. This figure will undoubtedly not please the defenders of the French language in Morocco.

The most important reason given is that English is seen as the language of instruction, employment and openness to the world. Is this a view shared by only a few or is there a structural trend underway that could tip the scales in favor of English?

Khalil, 21, a fourth-year student at University College London, says the choice is obvious. After completing his studies at the French mission in Morocco, he decided – like many of his comrades – that he wanted to go to university in an English-speaking country.

“Are we going to slowly leave the Francophonie, which is becoming too small for us, and join a globalized world ruled by the Anglo-Saxons? wonders the former diplomat Ahmed Faouzi.

Political dimension

Can the introduction of a language be a simple isolated phenomenon, without ramifications? According to Sara Mejdoubi, researcher and director of the Languages, Cultures and Civilizations Unit at the International University of Rabat, this seems highly improbable. The arrival of a language is never innocent and, on the contrary, highlights the existence of internal struggles. “Any language strategy reflects a country’s vision,” she says.

Faouzi agrees, saying that a language “is not just for communication. It is also an identity marker and an ideological vector. The power of the English language, like other languages ​​in the past, reflects the balance of power between nations, which is now in favor of the Anglo-American axis, ”he wrote in a column published on Media24.

Two distinct and simultaneous phenomena collide, this is what made English a dominant language in Morocco today. The first is the extent to which the language of Shakespeare has become the world language of negotiation, commerce, and now teaching and research.

The process also starts from the top. Mejdoubi notes the emergence of movements and discourses that promote the English language at several levels, including in universities, where teacher-researchers are encouraged to publish in English.

The French model is losing ground

The second phenomenon at work is the loss of attractiveness of the French model, which is explained both by its educational aspect – perceived as obsolete – and by the deleterious atmosphere that has reigned in France for several years, especially with debates centered on immigration. and Islamic.

Today, many young people think that the French model is not as desirable as it used to be. This is particularly the case within a very privileged social class, whose young people now choose to study in Canada or the United Kingdom rather than in France.

[…] the French language will be […] not be replaced by English. French is part of our heritage, of our conscious and our unconscious.

In the case of engineering student Khalil, the English pedagogical model has several advantages, not so much in terms of basic knowledge, but rather in the approach itself. “First, I can choose my specialization right away, without having to wait until my third or fourth year. Second, we gain the same knowledge we would have [have] in France, but here, teachers and administration are much more accessible, ”he says.

Another major advantage is the possibility of entering a major school, including in France, without having to do a preparatory class. This is what several friends of Khalil have done: after having followed a course in England, they then go to prestigious establishments such as HEC or ESCP Europe.

Sometimes, however, the change occurs much sooner.. This is the case for certain wealthy categories of the population, who place their children in expensive schools so that they can benefit from education in English.

These two trends have considerably increased, beyond the purely linguistic aspect, the influence of the Anglo-Saxon model in Morocco. This is evidenced by the increase in the number of English-language secondary schools operating in the Kingdom over the past 20 years.

However, all these factors must be put into perspective. Faouzi is convinced that “the French language will not be replaced by English. French is part of our heritage, of our conscious and our unconscious.

He also recalls that Moroccans have always lived in a multilingual environment. Between Arabic and French, both spoken by a large part of the population, Spanish, which is spoken in the northern provinces – not to mention various dialects such as Berber – Morocco was built around a heterogeneous linguistic identity.

The same British Council study also concludes that “although English is increasingly popular, French retains a strong influence in the daily life of young Moroccans”.

Mejdoubi does not worry about the language of Molière’s future either. “The French language has left its mark, in law, beyond culture,” she said, adding that English should be introduced as “another string to the cultural bow of Morocco”.

Mejdoubi recalls that the American high school diploma is, unlike its counterpart from the French mission, not yet recognized by the Moroccan civil service, proof that the English language and the Anglo-Saxon model are not yet sufficiently established in the kingdom.

It is also proof that, despite the breakthrough of the English language, French is still largely dominant within Moroccan institutions and elite circles. Could France’s recent decision to reduce the number of visas it grants to Moroccan nationals speed up the process, by encouraging young people to turn to other destinations?

Although Faouzi considers this to be “The sovereign choice of France”, he notes that he treats other countries differently, even though they are putting in place mechanisms to encourage international elites to come and contribute to their development. “A country cannot develop in autarky,” he says.

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