The Berber Ceiling: Social Inequality and Linguistic Reform in Morocco

Julia Yingling, `14
Julia Yingling, `14

By: Julia Yingling, `14

Morocco is a small country in Northern Africa, and is in the interesting position of having three major spoken languages – Arabic, Berber, and French – each of which occupies a unique position in society. It was the difference between these positions that interested me the most. Arabic, and more recently Berber, are the official languages and the first language of approximately half the population. French is the primary second language of Morocco, and is spoken by many at the same level of a first language. However, Berber has only recently started being taught as a language in the Moroccan school system, and is still only taught for three hours per week as a second language. Why is this? What is the connection to the fact that Berber-speakers have lower incomes and literacy rates than the rest of the country?

To this end, I did my research on the impacts of societal attitudes on the usage of a language, and the implications of language usage on a population. Through research on the Berber language and its position in the Moroccan educational system, my research attempts to prove that negative views of a society diminish the effectiveness of both top-down and bottom-up reform efforts. This issue is, additionally, a way of exploring the wider issues of social inequality and the challenges that face evolving multilingual societies, including China and the United States.

The Berber Ceiling: Social Inequality and Linguistic Reform in Morocco

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