Morocco has a long tradition of following the French example in virtually everything. Nearly every major sector is either run by French people or is following the French standards. However, I’ve come to notice that our society has been through a major shift in the past decade, more and more Moroccans choose to learn and speak English instead of French, more American centers, American schools and British Council offices have been opening their doors to the public in big cities, and more work opportunities that require English speaking staff have been opening up.
One of the events that made me want to write about this topic was the surprise I had when I saw a group of teenagers offering “FREE HUGS” at the Rabat Ville train station a couple of weeks ago. I accepted a hug and with it accepted tons of questions. How come things I only see on Youtube are taking place here in Morocco? Is it happening in some cities only, or is it taking place everywhere? And more importantly what does the general public think of these imported phenomena?
It is known that French traditions are deeply rooted in the Moroccan society, French is the language of the elite, it is the language used in higher education and in the workplace. Nevertheless, the current changes seem to be imposing English on the Moroccan market. Thus, more companies are now recruiting English-speaking university graduates, the demand on English is rising and French is facing a doubtful future in Morocco. Professor Hassan Bouzidi Foresaw this change in his 1998 article “French Is No Longer de Rigueur” where he gave reasons for why English is sweeping French dominance in Morocco. I assume it is also known that language and culture go hand in hand; wherever a language is spoken, its culture dominates. Hence, French is facing a double threat, the first is constituted by giving up its status of the first foreign language in Morocco, and the second is represented by giving the floor to American culture to gain ground in Morocco and North Africa, a place that has always followed the French tradition in all aspects.
However, many people still think that French will reconquer Morocco. They think of English as a temporary and fashionable thing, just a linguistic “fling”. These usually are the people who always believed French was superior to other languages and people who never thought French would be substituted by a different foreign language. Nevertheless, I think that this is just an attempt to hide their frustration. All the hopes they put on French are being swept away by the English tsunami, and it’s just too hard to admit.
It is therefore apparent that the French language and culture could not keep up with the overwhelming invasion of their American and British counterparts. We can now witness the presence of signs of Americanization everywhere in Morocco. We now have malls in the American style, fast food restaurants are showing up like mushroom, Globalization has made it mandatory for everyone in the world to get in touch with the American culture. Business, Internet, Hollywood and media have been highly influential in this process. But, hey, isn’t Morocco an Arab-Amazigh nation after all?
Yes, it is. And in this regard, many Moroccans lament how we’re shifting from French, a language and culture that represent the colonialists, to English, a language and culture that represent the “oppressor”, whereas our mother tongues (Arabic and Berber) are being forgotten and disrespected. Some say it’s done on purpose, whereas others blame the society itself for this situation. “What do we produce? Where do we stand? What added value do we offer?…Nothing! So why would we go crazy about the situation of our mother tongues when we don’t do anything to honor them?” Some people wonder.
All in all, I think that a legacy of more than a century won’t disappear overnight. In front of the lack of interest in our mother tongues, French and the French culture are still keeping a tight grip on the neck of Morocco and Moroccans. However, the change is undeniable. It started with Hip-Hop music, it’s moved to Free Hugs and Flash Mobs, and I’m quite positive it will end with more implication of English in our everyday lives, academia, business and even government.