with special thanks to Meriem Lahrizi, our "in country" coordinator, TGC 2014, for her valuable lecture on the topic...
Unfortunately, different languages and varieties are recognized and assigned hierarchical status.
Some expressions of language are valued more than others in a way that is associated with some people being more valued than others and some ideas expressed by people through language being more valued than others.
We see some of the same in the U.S. in a regional sense, where we make fun of each other's accents and either consciously or subconsciously connect regional and/or ethnic slang and accents with qualities such as intelligence. Yet in Morocco, these judgments are much more obviously apparent.
The majority of the population is functionally multilingual and are assumed to be able to effortlessly switch from one language to another according to need between the following:
*Standard Arabic (Fusha) is the official language;
*Moroccan Arabic (Derija) the vernacular;
*Tamazight: the mother tongue (early inhabitants language)
*French: a relic of the colonial period. It maintains a dominant role as an elite language;
*English: the international language and important in terms of upward mobility;
Different aspects of social life are seen as critical bases of linguistic social inequality, including colonial role, economic position, geographical area and gender.
Language inequality through education is a harsh reality in Morocco. The 44 year French occupation left an education system dominated by the needs and ideologies of the colonizers. The use of the colonial language as the language of knowledge and opportunity created a barrier to those without access to this language, thus establishing an elite class.
The status of Moroccan languages became hierarchical with the indigenous, or mother tongue, falling at the bottom.
Which tongue you choose to speak to which person in what domain constitutes political decisions influenced by broad historical and cultural discussions (Sadiqi 2003; Norag News 2004).
To bring these realities to a more personal level, I observed and spoke with students who have spent many years studying in Arabic but who will take national exams in French. For those hoping to study abroad to improve their career choices, a mastery of multiple languages is critical.
What if the majority of our American students were faced with a similar situation? Imagine what it might be like for students to study Physics or Calculus using English terms and than to have to take their end of year exams in French? The stress level of the Moroccan students I met was of course extremely high.
The gap between the language of formal education, the language spoken at home, and the languages spoken at the marketplace and outside of school are a major cause of low learning achievement rates in schools and low adult literacy.