Tunisia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.5 Language issues and policies

Arabic is the official language of the Republic of Tunisia, as stipulated by the Constitution of 1959: "Article 1: Tunisia is a free, independent, sovereign state with Islam as its religion and Arabic as its language, and is Republican”, and is taught and used in official communications and correspondence in addition to the presence of French language at the level of secondary education, higher education, professional transactions and even official business. Tunisians speak what is known as Tunisian’s “Eddarja language”[1] which is a homogeneous mixture of several languages from peoples and civilizations that passed through Tunisia and historically have dealt with Tunisians, either through settlement or occupation or trade. And “Eddarja language” is mainly based on the Arabic language with many vocabulary and words from several languages such as Turkish, Italian, French, Spanish and Tamazight "chelha" and even from ancient languages such as Latin, Greek and Phoenician, and is much like the Maltese language. It can be considered as a mirror of the “melting pot” process for culture and its diversity in Tunisia over the ages and represents the basis for the uniqueness of Tunisian identity. For minority languages, "chelha" can be highlighted as the most prominent minority language, spoken by the Amazigh community but it has no particular interest in cultural policy. Currently, there is no specific discussion about this subject, although it appears the community still using this language is motivated to promote it.

With regard to language learning, education is compulsory for French and English during the primary stage, and enables young people to be open to other cultures through this approach. In addition, there is the possibility of learning other foreign languages at secondary level, including Spanish, Russian, German, and Italian.


Chapter published: 05-05-2015


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