Mariem Bchir, Kenzie Bell, Bethany Kirkpatrick, Sam Owusu
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Chris Marsicano
More than any other European imperialist, France forced its language on its North African colonies. France both saw its language and culture as exceptional and wanted them to be universal, and this pairing of domination and unity justified the path of forced implementation. In the modern day, language education conveys a country’s beliefs on how to access economic security, personal fulfillment, or national unity. Therefore, studying the French language in the Maghrebi countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia–countries who shared French in the past and who share Arabic today–provides an opportunity to consider the lasting impacts of colonialism on the colonized nation.
To study the relationship between colonial languages and modern outcomes, we use data from the Arab Barometer data set to ask: (1) Does speaking French impact North African students’ educational attainment? And (2) Does speaking French as a second language influence Arabic speakers’ views on their country? We hypothesized that, given the centrality of French to higher education in Algeria, French language learners will have significantly higher rates of access to educational attainment, and that in relation to political views, speaking French will give respondents a more global and less regional perspective.
The Arab Barometer uses data from survey interviews collected over two-wave periods throughout the MENA region. The data set supported our intended research through its questions tailored specifically to the MENA region, as well as its information on language exposure and educational attainment. Our data analysis is divided into three parts. First, we visually graph the relationship between French language acquisition and college achievement. Second, we compare the independent variables of French language and gender to the dependent variable of educational satisfaction. Finally, we regress various political perspectives on survey respondents’ gender, educational attainment, and French language status. Methods used include data visualization, OLS regression, and interaction terms.
A strong correlation exists between French language acquisition and college educational attainment. This finding explains the statistically significant and negative relationship between French language and educational satisfaction. By contrast, gender does not predict educational satisfaction, and the act of including gender and French language in the same OLS model yields an even stronger relationship between French and educational satisfaction. In short, French speakers are both more dissatisfied and less satisfied with their education system. However, comparing gender, language, and education to various political beliefs proves that more factors than education influence one’s politics.
The results of this study indicate the continuing impact of French on Maghrebi outcomes, leading us to suggest two policy outcomes: increasing the presence of Arabic in higher education and equalizing quality access to French for primary school students. These recommendations both establish an ideal of achievement independent from a colonial language and recognize the reality of French’s status today. Further research should investigate the possibility of differences between urban and rural areas in access to and impact of French, as well as conducting an economic analysis of the impact of the French language on income.