Whenever I hear the debate rose about languages in Morocco and which one should be the official one in the country, I just think about my experience with languages. My parents and ancestors are Amazigh, and speak only one language Tamazight, and what they know in Arabic is some verses of Coran, they learned by heart in mosques to use in pray. So when I was born, the language that my mother fed me and that I hear everywhere in my surrounding was Tamazight. And then I started to learn classic Arabic, first in the mosque and later when I attended the school where I started to hear also some dialect Arabic, which was a little used by teachers. So up till that stage, I was introduced to three languages. And in the third year in school, another language was added, French.
Before the age of 10, I had to deal with four languages. My mother tongue comes in the first position because it’s the one I use frequently, and my only communication link with my family and surrounding, and then classic Arabic in which school programs were written. And the dialectal Arabic, though it was not much necessary in daily use in rural towns, such where I lived in, as mostly all people are Amazighs, but we tried as children of the town to learn it because we felt embarrassed when we fail to communicate with family members coming from the city, or some foreigners we meet in the surroundings, and also because our older brothers and sisters who attended school learned it.
And when I moved to high school at the age of 16, a 5th language was added to all that mixture, English. And the use of the other languages had become more essential than before. The classic Arabic use was very vital, as it’s required to succeed in school and almost the whole program is in classic Arabic. And dialectal Arabic was necessary to communicate with my peers, some of them who speak only dialect Arabic as it is their mother tongue. French too, had a significant importance in studies.
When I moved to seek a job, I found that the classic Arabic that we used to study for long years, and that is the official language in constitution is incapable to feed me, and unable to secure a job. Most of the jobs require French, as it is the language of economy, and of course this is related to colonization, and the forced link to the colonizer- France.
Learning all that number of languages was exhausting, and certainly has taken much time and strength, but probably it was preventing me from mastering them all. But, shall we see this combination of languages as positive, or negative? I don’t know.
Learning languages is certainly positive, but not all at once.