17 January 2012 8:01 pm | | 0


Share     Share       Share     Share  

Recent controversy sparked by a member of Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly’s difficulty communicating in Standard Arabic has reopened a debate about the role of language in Tunisian national identity.

Karima Ben Souid, a member of the Constituent Assembly and a representative of the center-left Ettakatol party, has been facing challenges within the Assembly because of her lack of fluency in Standard Arabic. Souid, born to Tunisian parents, is a dual national of both France and Tunisia. She spent the majority of her life living in France, and, due to her lack of exposure to the Arabic language, never achieved a mastery of Standard Arabic.

Souid admits that lacking  fluency in Standard Arabic is a common issue for Tunisians that have grown up abroad.

“I was born and raised in France, so I never learned Arabic when growing up. I do speak Tunisian and I’m trying to improve my [Standard] Arabic,” said Souid.

During one of the Constituent Assembly’s sessions addressing the composition of the interim constitution, the issue regarding the official language of the Assembly was raised. When Souid used French to inquire about a matter that she was unable to communicate in Arabic, one of the members showed dissatisfaction about using French within the Assembly. The remark turned into a heated conflict, among several members of the assembly, concerning whether the use of other languages than Arabic was acceptable.

“I was trying to ask for a clarification but was not able to find the right words to speak my mind in Arabic. So I used French but it upset Omar Chtioui, from the centrist Congress for the Republic (CPR) party. His reaction was extremely offensive and provoking,” Souid explained.

Members who objected to using French during sessions of the Constituent Assembly, such as Omar Chtioui, cited the need to respect the “Arabic and Muslim identity of Tunisians.”

Since the revolution, the linguistic identity of Tunisia has been and essential part of political discourse – particularly for the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, whose leader Rached Ghannouchi notably decried the “polluting” influence of French in Tunisian Arabic, but also for the CPR, who have entered into a ruling coalition with Ennahda and Ettakatol.

According to the Office of Tunisians Living Abroad (Office des Tunisiens à l’Etranger), the total number of Tunisians living abroad is over one million - 600,000 of whom live in France.

Alia is a Tunisian living abroad who speaks both Tunisian Arabic and French, but is not fluent in Standard Arabic. Alia has been living in the USA since 1999. Consequently, she has found little time to practice speaking Arabic very often.

Addressing the possibility of being marginalized due to her lack of fluency in Standard Arabic, Alia stated, “The Islamic party made it clear that the French language was not something they would promote.” She explained that she is used to relying on French to complete paperwork, as it is also an administrative language in Tunisia.

“Having a second language will never make the first one weaker! I think that it is a valuable asset, for obvious cultural, economic, touristic,  and financial reasons,” said Alia. Alia thinks Tunisian Arabic should be permitted, and made use of, in political life.

Tunisians speak Tunisian Arabic, a dialect of Standard Arabic which incorporates influences from several other languages. Standard Arabic is the official language of the country (according to Article 1 of the “Mini-Constitution”), while French is second in terms of spoken prevalence. On a daily basis Tunisians typically communicate in both Tunisian and French.

Share     Share       Share     Share  

  From the same category

            

New Areas Around Chaambi Declared Military Zones

Pollution Ravages Old Port of Tunis

NCA Approves Judicial Body, Looks Ahead to Electoral Law

Motocross Racers in the Forests of Bizerte

            

Members ‘Freeze’ NCA Participation Over Reduced Sentences for Ben Ali Officials

Ben Ali Officials To Be Released in Revolution Killings Case

UGTT Union Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Six Security Officers Injured in Rouhia Clashes

            

Tunisia Marks Martyrs Day with Calm Demonstrations

Martyrs’ Day Remembers Protesters Killed Under French Rule

Four Police Officers Convicted with Killing Protesters During Revolution

Libya Border Crossing Reopens After Protests


Leave Feedback


  Follow us

Connect on YouTube Connect on Google+ Connect to itunes Subscribe via RSS Feed



  Latest Videos


Play Video

Motocross Racers in the Forests of Bizerte, Tunisia

Bizerte, the northernmost city in Africa, hosted the fourth round of the...

Play Video

Endangered Whale Brought Ashore in Tunis Suburb

Onlookers in the popular tourist spot of Sidi Bou Said, near Tunis,...

Play Video

'Kima Enti:' Mixing Tunisian Traditions With Modern Design

"Kima Enti" is a hand-made art and design project launched by independent...

Play Video

One-Year Anniversary of Chokri Belaid's Death

On February 6, 2014, family and supporters of slain Tunisian politician Chokri...

Play Video

Klay BBJ explains his arrest

Tunisia Live's Nissaf Slama interviews rapper Klay BBJ on his music, arrest,...



Tabbed Structure - Regular
UGTT Union Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize...
(1365 Views)
Unemployed Tunisians Risk Their Lives to Build Future...
(1167 Views)
Tunisia Returns Stolen Ancient Artifact to Algeria...
(1151 Views)
Switzerland to Return $40 Million in Ben Ali...
(1113 Views)
Motocross Racers in the Forests of Bizerte...
(845 Views)
Pollution Ravages Old Port of Tunis...
(844 Views)
NCA Approves Judicial Body, Looks Ahead to Electoral...
(840 Views)
Ben Ali Officials To Be Released in Revolution...
(804 Views)
Members ‘Freeze’ NCA Participation Over Reduced Sentences for...
(759 Views)
 
Low Turnout and Mixed Feelings for Algerians Voting in Tunisia...
Update: Libyan Kidnappers Demand Militants’ Release...
New Areas Around Chaambi Declared Military Zones...
Pollution Ravages Old Port of Tunis...
NCA Approves Judicial Body, Looks Ahead to Electoral Law...
Motocross Racers in the Forests of Bizerte...
Unemployed Tunisians Risk Their Lives to Build Future in Europe...
Members ‘Freeze’ NCA Participation Over Reduced Sentences for Ben Ali Officials...
Ben Ali Officials To Be Released in Revolution Killings Case...