Moroccan Amazigh community raises domestic, international appreciation for language through digitalization

Moroccan Amazigh community raises domestic, international appreciation for language through digitalization

Morocco has for long taken pride in its ethnic and cultural diversity, as the Kingdom’s constitutionally protected Amazigh community continues to push for more structural inclusion.

Several projects have been launched to expand the reach and usage of the Amazigh language for instance, strengthening its presence not only on the national stage but also globally.

There are various efforts led by individuals who are heavily invested in this field and have a strong belief in the future of the Amazigh language. These initiatives are envisioned to strengthen the presence of Amazigh on the Internet, just like the previous initiatives that focused on promoting it in schools and textbooks.

In this regard, the Wikipedia project for the Standard Amazigh language received approval from the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that supervises a group of global projects and websites, including the Wikipedia website.

Given its status as a constitutional language, this project aims to promote the Amazigh language globally, encourage its use, and ensure its widespread dissemination. The project is expected to see the light of day on November 7th this year.

In order to learn more about this project, MoroccoLatestNews contacted Al Houssine Bentifaste, one of the founders of the Standard Amazigh language Wikipedia project and a member of Wikimedia Morocco, who told us not only about the recent ground-breaking achievement but also about other projects that hold the same hope to come soon.

“We embarked on this mission in May 2023 with the participation of a group of Amazigh enthusiasts –be they professors, students, or anybody interested in the language—but we received acceptance and approval only on November 1st,” explained Bentifaste to MoroccoLatestNews.

This project provides articles using the Tifinagh script and references from sources such as the dictionary published by the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture and other official sources.

“The current project aligns with the official guidelines issued by the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture. It applies the official language regulations and targets the entire Moroccan population, unlike a previous project that focused only on one variety of Amzigh language –which was Tashelhit,” further explained.

It is worth noting that they previously launched the Wikipedia Tashelhit project which adopted the Latin script instead and focused solely on one variety. Unfortunately, the project did not succeed nor spread out, told us MoroccoLatestNews.

On the bright side, Bentifaste added to MoroccoLatestNews that he is working on another ambitious project to expand the scope of the Amazigh language. The project aims to provide an Amazigh translation version; however, it is still in the testing phase.

“The Google Translate project is a collaborative volunteer-driven initiative aimed at introducing the Amazigh language to Google Translate. The idea is to provide Google algorithms with a large amount of Amazigh texts and then ask participants to interact with Google’s translation based on the provided texts,” he explained.

The participants are required to judge, either by confirming or denying the accuracy of the translation proposed by Google Translation.

In doing so, Google Translation will learn more about the Amazigh language and improve its knowledge about it. It is worth noting that this project uses Latin script rather than Tifinagh.

He concluded that there is another ambitious project run by some members of the Standard Amazigh language Wikipedia project. It is about providing translation using artificial intelligence.

Speaking of the Standard Amazigh language Wikipedia project, the 2023 Wiki Indaba Conference will be held in the city of Agadir from November 3-5. The event, which brings together African Wikimedia contributors, includes several activities dedicated to the Amazigh language, especially a workshop on editing and writing articles on the Amazigh Wikipedia website.

According to a press release, which MoroccoLatestNews received a copy of, over 120 experts and contributors from Africa and the diaspora will gather to foster cooperation and share knowledge on the African continent. Among them are key representatives from the U.S.-based Wikimedia Foundation.

The event is sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, and the Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Communication of Morocco, among others.

Under the theme “Tweeza: Empowering Africa through Knowledge-sharing and Collaboration,” the conference aims to strengthen collaborations and empower Africa through knowledge-sharing.

Reda Benkhadra, a board member of Wikimedia Morocco said “This is not just a pivotal moment for our community; it signifies a leap forward for open knowledge and the Wikimedia ecosystem across the African continent. Hosting WikiIndaba 2023 in Morocco amplifies the voice of the region, presenting an invaluable opportunity for Moroccan and African Wikimedians to connect, learn, and shape the future of the movement in Africa and the diaspora,” according to the press release.

Key highlights of the conference include inspiring keynote speeches, workshops, and panel discussions on capacity building and emerging technologies, and networking opportunities for future collaborative initiatives.

The Amazigh language is constitutional; It became an official language in 2011.

Many initiatives have been done by the government. They have one stated aim is to spread the language and culture, as it is part and parcel of Morocco’s rich history.

In September 2023, Abdellatif Miraoui, Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Innovation, announced plans to integrate the Amazigh language into the country’s university system. This effort aims to safeguard Tamazight’s constitutional designation as an official language and a shared cultural heritage of all Moroccans.

Another ambitious initiative done by the government was to gradually introduce the teaching of the Amazigh language in primary education, beginning from the 2023/2024 school year and aiming for full implementation by the start of the 2029/2030 school year.

The most recent move to foster the Amazigh language and culture was adopting the Amazigh New Year as an official national holiday by the royal decision.

Morocco’s Amazigh community has long been active in its attempts to value its heritage and language both domestically and internationally.

Although Amazigh identity is not limited to Morocco, the community of the Kingdom are not a “dominated minority,” unlike Amazigh populations in other countries in the region such as Algeria and Libya, as highlighted by Abdellah Hatous, head of the Tamaghribit Bloc of Citizenship Forums and former head of the Tamaynot Association and the Amazigh Observatory for Rights and Liberties.

During the presentation of the book “From Pluralism to Pluralism: An Attempt to Understand the Stakes of Linguistic Policy in Morocco,” by the writer Said Bennis, Hatous stated that the Amazigh movement insisted, during the discussion of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “on emphasizing that we are in Morocco.”

“As an indigenous people, we are a unique situation, because we are not a minority and we are not a people dominated by another people.”

Efforts to institutionalize Amazigh language and culture have been crowned by a number of successes, but the community’s efforts paint a bright future for Morocco’s trademark diversity and social harmony.


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