Friday, November 1, 2013

Algerian War of Independence: The Languages Of Algeria

On this day in 1954, the Algerian War of Independence, which is known as the Algerian War in English, Guerre d'Algérie in French, and الثورة الجزائرية in Arabic, began. The conflict, which lasted over seven years, resulted in Algeria's independence from France, as well as becoming an important conflict in world history for the lessons learnt in terms of decolonisation and what is known as an
asymmetrical war.

The Tassili n'Ajjer mountain range in Algeria.
Algeria had been a French colony for over 100 years following its invasion by the French in 1830. However, today marks what was labelled a "Red All Saints' Day", or Toussaint Rouge, the day when members of the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale or FLN in French) staged attacks on both military and civilian targets and broadcast a proclamation for Muslims in Algeria to restore the state to a sovereign nation under the principles of Islam.

Though a fairly sombre day to be remembered, the result of the war would allow Algeria its independence and result in the fall of France's fourth republic. Rather than dwell on the depressing nature of war, we felt it would be wiser to spend today commemorating Algeria's linguistic diversity, some of which is due to its relationship with France.

Official Languages


Algeria's sole official language is Modern Standard Arabic. This form of the macrolanguage is considered to be the most formal and is based on Classical Arabic, the type of Arabic that is used in the Qur'an.

Nearly 3 in 4 Algerians speak Arabic as their native language. Algerian Arabic has been influenced by Berber, another native language of Algeria, not to mention French and Spanish, owing to the country's colonial past.

85% of Algeria's population can speak Algerian Arabic and of those who speak Arabic in the country, 83% speak this form of Arabic.

National Languages


Along with Arabic, the Berber language is also considered to be native to Algeria. Berber is considered to be a language family that spans across a large portion of North Africa, including Burkina Faso, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, and Niger.

Over a quarter of Algeria's population speak a Berber dialect, and since 2001 Berber has held official status in Algeria as a national language.

Regional Languages

Hassaniya Arabic

The variety of Arabic spoken in the west of Algeria, Hassaniya Arabic, is estimated to have around 3.3 million speakers. Though the language is spoken principally in Mauritania and the disputed area of Western Sahara, it can also be found in the bordering areas of Algeria.

It is considered to be somewhat distinct from Algerian Arabic, and as a result holds no official status in the country.

The province of El Taref in northeast Algeria.

This language is spoken by only 3,000 people in the town of Tabelbaba, in the southwest of Algeria. This town is unique in Algeria as being the only town to not speak Arabic or Berber as a principal language. The Korandje language is considered to be a member of the Songhay language family, a group of languages generally found around the central areas of the Niger River, though very few studies have been conducted or published on it.

Immigrant Languages


Algeria is considered to be the second largest Francophone country in the world. 1 in 3 Algerians are said to be able to read and write French, and despite independence from France, government and official affairs are still sometimes conducted in French.

Despite its independence from France, French still is the most commonly studied language in Algeria and many university classes are still conducted in French. However, education and bureaucracy in Algeria is becoming more and more Arabic in its affairs.

Are there any important languages spoken in Algeria that we have missed? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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