Sunday 17 August 2008

What is my mother tongue(s)?

The girls and I are back from our trip: one week in France and 4 weeks in Algeria.
Our Algerian stay has had a notable impact on BK's Arabic and French grammars. She can now make distinct sentence constructions in either language, without mixing the two.

In French, she is confused with auxiliaries être and avoir. She would say "Tu suis fatiguée" instead of "tu es fatiguée".
Her colloquial Arabic is good though, because she can mix as much French as she wishes and that is all right. She has a better use of prepositions (with, under, over ...) and verb tenses. Most of the time, she is using the right verb endings for 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons.

I sometimes wish I had not mixed the two languages, or at least spoke only one to her (probably Arabic). I realise I do not have the choice though.

Colloquial Algerian Arabic is my mother tongue. It contains many Algerianised French words. Examples: tounoubil (a) = automobile (f), tabla (a) = table (f), krazit (a) = j'ai écrasé (f), journan (a) = journal (f) ... In addition to the modified French words, lots of intact French words can also be used interchangeably with the Arabic ones, especially technical terms such as moteur, ordinateur...

Also, much as I don't like to admit it, French is probably also my mother tongue. Both languages are part of who I am. And naturally, I am transmitting this somewhat complex aspect of my personality to my children. I am just hoping it does not confuse them. BK has been doing pretty well until now.


  1. When watching those Algerian movies, sometimes I could understand the conversations when they switch to French, but some seconds later they spoke Arabic again.

    Although my country's official language is Indonesia, there are hundreds of local languages and dialects, and many of us speak at least 1 local language next to Indonesian language. Many colloquial Indonesian words come from the local languages, and become part of Indonesian language as well.

    Reading your posting and remembering the movies I saw, I guess you cannot consider it as mixing languages because that's the language in Algeria. Or am I totally wrong here?

  2. You are right, Algerian is indeed this way, arabic structure with some french vocabulary. In our case, though, I am mixing Algerian Arabic and French, cause I would speak in either languages depending on the situation.
    I'd be interested to know what Algerian movies you saw :)


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