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Language Ideologies and Policies at Work: Obstructing Arabic Instruction from the French Colonial Era to the Present

Brahim Chakrani


This article analyzes France’s language policies regarding Arabic instruction, considering the historical relationship with the Arabic language and its speakers, from colonial to postmodern eras. The polemic surrounding Arabic instruction in the schools of the republic is not a nascent political development regarding minority linguistic rights, but, rather, a byproduct of ideologically motivated educational policies that aim to marginalize the role of Arabic, both within the Arab world and the French diaspora. The debate demonstrates the centrality of language ideologies in shaping France’s identities, both nationally and abroad, and the maintenance of French as well as Arabic, the language of France’s largest minority. France has historically promoted the dominance of the French language, including Francophonie’s inception (Kasuya 2001; Vigouroux 2013) in the post-independence era and laïcité in modern-day France (Tetreault 2021). Analyzing current political debates in France shows that the circulating ideologies that characterizes teaching Arabic is not born in a vacuum, but, rather, it continues a legacy of contention that has characterized France’s relationship with the Arabic speaking world.


Arabic; France; francophonie; ideology; laïcité; language policy; Maghreb; sociolinguistics.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2021-002-chak

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