Algeria’s University Language Change

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Emmanuel Macron’s repugnant comments about Algeria and its history have started a new row, threatening to escalate tensions further – and now sparking a new initiative from Algeria to break away from its French heritage, Maghrebi has learnt.

French as a language in Algeria is to be quickly phased out of universities.

Algerian authorities have decided to replace the French language with English at universities, starting the new academic year in September, according to Saudi news website Asharq Al Awsat.

The move is quite a radical one compared to similar moves in neighbouring Morocco which is also moving towards an english language model, but more cautiously starting in primary schools.

Last year, Algeria launched procedures to start teaching English, in the first educational stages, to replace French in wake of severe political tensions with Paris.

On July 1, the Ministry of Higher Education’s Secretary-General sent a letter to university directors asking them to organize meetings and form pedagogical teams before the summer vacation to prepare for the adoption of English as the language of instruction in the next academic year.

He confirmed that the National Committee would supervise and follow up on the preparations and will organize field visits to university institutions in July to evaluate their preparations.

Observers tied the decision to new tensions between Algeria and France.

Algeria is monitoring with concern efforts by far-right French lawmakers to annul a 1968 agreement that controls immigration between the two countries. The MPs claim that the deal has not helped limit immigration to France.

Algeria, meanwhile, rejected a French request to take back thousands of its illegal migrants. Paris retaliated by cutting the number of visas issued to Algerians.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was scheduled to visit France in mid-May but the trip was postponed to June and in the end it never transpired. No reason was given.

The cancellation of the visit could be related to the disputes that never end between the two countries.

Algeria was a French colony for 130 years and gained independence in 1962 after a devastating eight-year war. Paris has repeatedly refused to apologize for the occupation, a source of deep contention with Algiers.

In 2021, Algerian government agencies decided to stop using French in their correspondence amid tensions with France.

They decided to begin the adoption of Arabic on November 1, the date of the anniversary of the eruption of the Algerian revolution against French colonialism.

Observers said the move was in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s denial of “the existence of an Algerian nation” before the French invasion of Algeria in 1830.


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