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Algeria extends English-language learning as France’s influence ebbs

September 30, 2023 at 10:01 am

More than 11 million students, supervised by some 500,000 teachers, joined, in Algiers in Algeria on September 19, 2023. [Photo by APP/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

The Associated Press (AP) reported: “More than a year after Algeria launched a pilot program to teach English in elementary schools, the country is hailing it as a success and expanding it in a move that reflects a widening linguistic shift underway in former French colonies throughout Africa.”

“Students1 returning to third and fourth-grade classrooms this fall will participate in two 45-minute English classes each week as the country creates new teacher training programs at universities and eyes more transformational changes in the years ahead. Additionally, the country is strengthening enforcement of a preexisting law against private schools that operate primarily in French,” wrote the newspaper.

AP quoted Education Minister Abdelkrim Belabed last week explaining its success: “Teaching English is a strategic choice in the country’s new education policy.”

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English has become the most widely spoken language in the world, accounts for the majority of content on the Internet and remains a lingua franca in business and science. As France’s economic and political influence across Africa declines, Algeria is among a longer list of countries gradually shifting towards English as a major foreign language.

This year, neighbouring Mali changed its constitution to remove French from the list of official languages, and Morocco made English lessons compulsory in secondary schools.

The number of French speakers in Algeria exceeds that of French speakers in all countries except France and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the International Organisation of the French Language, it is spoken by approximately 15 million out of the 44 million people in the country. Its officials describe English lessons as a practical shift, noting the importance of the language in scientific and technical fields.

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