Feb 11, 2016

Amazigh: Algeria Finally Recognizes Tamazight as Official Language

Photo Courtesy of: Albe Hakan 2008 @Flickr

After the process was initiated by the Algerian government in early January 2016, the Berber language (Tamazight) has now finally been recognized as one of the country’s official idioms, meaning that it not only can be taught in schools, but also used in administrative documents. The reform is part of wider democratisation efforts in Algeria, and might in the future be complemented by further steps to institutionalize the use of Tamazight, such as its standardisation through the creation of an Amazigh Language Academy.


Below is an article published by Language Magazine

Although Arabic will remain the language of the Algerian government, the Berber language can now appear on official documents. The Berbers were the original inhabitants of North Africa before the seventh century Arab invasion, and they now make up 13 million of Algeria’s 39 million people. The Berber language – known locally as Amazigh – was recognized by Algeria in 2002 as a national language, meaning it could be taught officially in schools in Berber-speaking regions, but Berbers pushed for it to be awarded official status, meaning it would also be accepted on administrative documents.

The language policy change was included in a package of reforms aimed at strengthening democracy that also reinstated a two-term limit on the presidency. “This project crowns the process of political reforms promised by the head of state,” said Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal. The reforms guaranteed “democratic change by means of free elections” and were “a bulwark against the vagaries of political change,” he added.

It will allow “the state to dedicate more means and measures to make up for shortcomings,” High Council of the Amazigh affairs (HCA) secretary-general Si El Hachemi Assad said. Around 25% of Algerians speak regional variants of Amazigh, but less than 3% of students learn it at school, the HCA says. Algeria hopes to create an Amazigh language academy to address its standardization and transcription into one of the Berber, Latin, or Arabic alphabets.