Lesson 2: Asserting Linguistic Identity in the Arab World

Lesson Information

About this Lesson:

Arabic language has long been a defining factor for membership in the Arab world. Ethnic groups that do not share Arabic as a mother-tongue may experience particular challenges in accessing social capital and education within officially Arab states. In order for students to understand the diversity of ethnic groups in the Arab world, they should consider the relationship between language and identity.

In this lesson, students engage with various sources relating to the Imazighen people, also known as the Berbers, and read about their struggle to maintain their identity through assertion of their language, Tamazight.

The Imazighen are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa and with large communities in Morocco and Algeria, and smaller pockets of Imazighen throughout the area. Imazighen have lived with Arabs and Muslims since the spread of Islam in the 7th century, at which point most converted to Islam. Today, Imazighen are fairly culturally assimilated and distinguished primarily through knowledge and use of the Imazighen language, Tamazight. There are strong Berberist movements fighting to maintain and Imazighen identity and independence.

Time

50 minutes

In this lesson, students will:

  • look at Tifinagh, the Tamazight alphabet, and the Amazigh flag.
  • read Free People: The Imazighen of North Africa, by Nuunja Kahina.
  • listen to The Rebel is Our Star, by Dania Ben Sassi.
  • write their name in a minority language in the Arab world.

Key Terms:

  • Amazigh (sing.)/Imazighen (pl.):  An ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, often called Berbers. Pronounced: Ah-ma-zeegh; Im-ah-zi-ghen, gh=french r.
  • Lounes Matoub:  Pronounced: Loo-nis Mah-toob.  Famous Amazigh singer and activist
  • Tamazight: The language of the Imazighen people. Pronounced: Tah-mah-zeeght, gh=french r.
  • Tifinagh: The Tamazight Alphabet. Pronounced: ti-fi-nah-gh, gh=french r.


Enduring Understandings

  • Peoples of the Arab world have diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, each with a distinctive character and identity.
  • Ethnic minorities negotiate their personal and collective identities in various ways to both accept and contest the dominant culture.
  • There is a strong connection between language and identity which creates unique challenges for linguistic minorities.

Curriculum Framing Questions

  • What are the concerns of ethnic minorities, and what can they do to voice their concerns?
  • What is the role of language in creating and accessing power for ethnic minorities in the Arab world?
  • What can we learn about the experiences of ethnic groups from the film and literature they produce?

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • articulate the relationship between language and identity.
  • identify the role of language in creating and accessing power for ethnic minorities in the the Arab world.

Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:

  • Active participation in class discussion
  • Creatively write and decorate students name in a minority language of the Arab world


Curriculum Standards Information

Reading: Informational Text

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

Speaking and Listening

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.

Language

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Reading: Informational Text

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Speaking and Listening:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Language:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

National Standards for Foreign Language Education

Standard 2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied.
Standard 3.2: Students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures.
Standard 4.1: Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.

Implementation

Materials Needed in Class:

Lounes Matoub Quotation Handout and Discussion Guide
Tifinagh Alphabet Handout
Amazigh Flag


Free People: The Imazighen of North Africa
The Rebel is Our Star Music Video
Armenian Alphabet


Assyrian Alphabet

Implementation Overview:

Click here to download PDF version

1.

Allow five minutes for the students to share the maps they created for homework. Ask them to pay particular attention to the maps that focused on language and the groups that were left off of them.

2.

Explain that this lesson focuses on language and the relationship between language and identity. Put on the board the quote below by famous Amazigh singer and activist Lounes Matoub:

…each time that I speak in my language, it is like an act of resistance. We exist, thanks to our language. This language, transmitted through my mother, is my soul. Thanks to her, I have made myself, I have dreamed listening to songs and stories.”

Divide students in small groups to discuss the quote. They may use the questions on the Lounes Matoub Quotation Handout as a guide:

  • How can this quotation help us understand the significance of language as it relates to identity?
  • According to this quotation, what does literature, music, and film produced by ethnic minorities offer them?
  • What can these art forms offer to outsiders?

3.

Tell students that they will examine Tifinagh, the alphabet of Matoub’s language, Tamazight. Distribute copies of the Tifinagh Alphabet Handout. Give students five minutes to consider their impressions of the alphabet. Discuss as a class:

  • What is their impression?
  • What power do these letters hold?

4.

Share an image of the Amazigh flag with the class.

  • Is there any evidence of a connection between language and identity? (The flag has a large Amazigh letter on it).

5.

Distribute Free People: The Imazighen of North Africa, by Nuunja Kahina. After students read the article, discuss as a class and consider the connections between Mattoub’s ideas and Kahina’s.

6.

Play the video of the song The Rebel is Our Star, by Dania Ben Sassi. This song was produced after the fall of Mu’amar Qaddafi in 2011. Explain to students that Amazigh was outlawed in Qaddaffi’s Libya. Does that impact the power of the song? How?


Homework:

Distribute copies of Armenian and Assyrian alphabets with English keys. Instruct students to write their names using one of these alphabets of Tifinagh, languages not included in the Arabic language maps (from the beginning of the lesson). Their piece should be designed and decorated.

Additional Resources:

Itto Titrit (Morocco, 2010), directed by Mohammad Abazi.
Morocco is going through turmoil. Liberty is on everyone’s lips: young and old, educated and illiterate, Muslims and Jews. Everyone in the village is dreaming of a better future, be it a government job or an escape to another land. Meanwhile, a little girl with the name Itto Titrit (Morning Star) is kept out of school against her wishes. She yearns to be close to her childhood love during the pre-independence days in Morocco, and so she decides to outsmart the social taboos established by dominant males. To get her share of freedom like the rest of the country, she does not know what it will cost to challenge the well-established male privileges. Tackling messages of religious tolerance, Tamazigh culture and the role of women, the picture represents a new apogee for Moroccan cinema as one of the first films shot completely by a Tamazigh cast and production crew.