Vol. 1 No. 1 (2020): Global Connections

Language Imperialism in French Algeria

Published May 15, 2020


As the post World War II period saw the rapid dismantling of Europe’s colonial empires, few nations clung to their overseas territories with as much zeal as France. Immediately off the heels of its failure to maintain control in Indochina, and facing national shame and embarrassment for military shortcomings there, France launched into a second full-scale war to hold one of its most valued colonies, Algeria. A French territory for over 100 years, Algeria faced unparalleled efforts to alter its society and subject its people to French rule. Attempting to subvert the existing culture in Algeria, the French saw language as a primary target in the battle for cultural dominance. Systematic efforts were made by French authorities to restrict and limit indigenous tongues, such as Arabic and Berber, and impose the French language as a means to subvert and supplant existing Algerian culture with that of metropolitan France. An examination of Algeria’s colonial history, its special status within the greater French imperial system, French attitudes regarding their society and culture, as well as the perspectives of Algerian’s opposed to French rule, provides a greater context that can simply be described as a policy of cultural domination.