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Francophone: A culture or colonisation?

April 03, 2014 - 6:24:56 am

Last week, Qatar celebrated “Francophone Week”, which included many activities and lectures about culture and art, movie shows and concerts.

Films of the French comic actor Jacques Tati were screened at the festival for the first time in the Gulf region.

As a French language student, I was interested in attending and experiencing the activities.

The term “francophone” means French-speaking. Language is much more than speech — it signifies culture and a way of thinking. It can even influence the policies of states.

Learning a new language has become an absolute necessity as it is considered a bridge between one human being and another, and it opens the door to other civilisations and cultures.

Maybe learning another language is a way of acquiring knowledge and safeguarding oneself against deceit. However, learners of new languages must not forget that it is also a way to make one’s thinking flexible.

The most important thing is not to neglect or despise one’s mother tongue or replace one’s everyday vocabulary with foreign words, or adopt a new lifestyle or a sense of arrogance and superiority.

Dr Fathy Gomaa mentioned this in his book, The Brave Language. He writes about the unnecessary use of non-Arabic words, which is considered a manifestation of a sense of cultural inferiority. He describes this “linguistic deformation” as an ugly and distasteful phenomenon.

Maybe this linguistic encroachment is a ploy to colonise under a cultural guise, as it makes the mother tongue recede for another language to take its place.

This is what happened to Hebrew, which had almost died, as it had become a language only of prayer until Israel was founded and Hebrew became its official language. Israelis believed that their language was linked to their civilization and country, so they imposed it.

Poet and translator Mohamed Al Rafrafi says that “francophone” is a tool of colonialism as it is cultural robbery and not culture, which is the exact opposite of voluntary openness to Voltaire’s language.

Learning a new language is a smart political step. It is like stepping out on a balcony that overlooks a whole new world. However, we must feel proud of our great language.

Our language is the language of Quran, poetry and literature. It is the language of civilisations that once existed and died in the Peninsula, Andalusia, Iraq and the Levant.

We are so proud when we master other languages that invade our lives and conversations. Will Western actors ever perform in Arabic? Will Arabic be used in international literature? Will people who teach it feel proud when they master it? Will they include Arabic words in their conversations? Or will they curse their fate?