Continuing my review of this piece by Vladimir Dobrynin. Whose thesis, jumping ahead, a bit, is that the Ukraine could borrow a leaf from Morocco. The two situations are completely different, of course. Morocco genuinely was a colony of France. Ukraine was never a colony of Russia, albeit the Ukrainian nationalists insist it was. But playing along for a moment with their wrong interpretation of history… The Morocco case shows, accordiing to Dobrynin, that it is a huge mistake to make a sudden radical change in the way people use language.
In the Moroccan case: After decolonization, the new government attempted, at least a couple of times, to replace French with Arabic as the language of education. Both attempts failed, especially in education concerning the natural sciences. The students themselves rebelled, because it turned out to be too difficult, if not impossible, to get a decent science education when relying purely on Arabic sources.
The French Language As a Symbol of Civilization
Unexpectedly for the “Arabizers”, Dobrynin continues, it was shocking for them to learn that the French language was the single, fragile link between these eager young students of science, and the outer world of knowledge. It was the only vehicle by which they themselves might present their discoveries and accomplishments to the world. Sociological surveys revealed that university students had already formed a concept in their heads, by which French was the language of science; and that by mastering it they would improve their chances of getting good jobs after graduation. Therefore, the notion of forcing them to speak only Arabic in class, to be taught in Arabic, and to read only Arabic sources; would have been like pushing them back into a corner, at a time when they were eager to step out into the larger world.
[Personally, I would have thought that German is a better choice than French for a language of science? But we aren’t necessarily talking about reality here, just what these students believe. Besides, they weren’t colonized by Germany, so they couldn’t be expected to have German so ready upon the tongue. Whereas French was already there.]
The most recent phase of “Arabization” happened in 2011 when the “Party of Justice and Development” won the elections. It was on the party’s platform to give preferences to Arabic and try to inculcate as the language of education. In the end they realized that this project was not working, and accepted the compromise, proposed by minority parties, by which scientific and technical subjects might be taught in “foreign” languages, meaning French, mostly. “We decided to take a constructive position in the interests of the nation, and of our future Moroccan generations.”
Morocco’s former Prime Minister Abdelila Benkirane objected grumpily that: “Most Moroccans don’t speak French, and we don’t have enough teachers who are qualified to teach this language to the students.”
Education Minister Said Amzazi disagrees: “The new law guarantees the future of education in our country; and creates the conditions for Moroccan schools to rise to the highest level. This is an event of historic proportions.”
Will Ukraine Learn A Lesson From Morocco?
The short answer is probably “No” but let’s play along.. In the final section of his op-ed Dobrynin sees parallels between Morocco and the Ukraine. In this scenario, replace Arab Nationalists with Ukrainian Nationalists. Ukrainian Nationalists, upon coming to power in the 2014 coup, launched a campaign to root out the Russian dialect and replace with the Ukrainian dialect. Russian was deemed “the language of the occupiers” and history was rewritten to depict Ukraine as the victim of Russian colonization. [Again, nothing like the real situation with African countries such as Morocco, who actually were colonies!]
In the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic there were two official and equal state languages: Russian and Ukrainian. However, the reality was that Russian remained the overwhelming language of choice for people talking about, and writing about, scientific and technical issues…
[to be continued]