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Interview with

Jamal Benhamou

Rare Language Specialist - Tachelhit (Berber/Amazigh)

Name: Jamal Benhamou
Nationality or Ethnicity: Moroccan/ American, of Amazigh (Berber) ethnicity
Where do you live?: Pensacola, Florida, United States
Representative of rare language: Tachelhit (Berber/Amazigh)

Jamal Benhamou is a Wikitongues contributor. Watch his video here.

1. What’s your story? How did you get exposed to this rare language?

I come from an Amazigh (berber) family from the anti Atlas  mountains of Morocco. I grew up speaking Tachelhit just like everyone in  my family, and to this day I continue to use Tachelhit with my family  members and other Imazighen especially my mother who speaks only this  Tachelhit.


2. How would you describe the efforts being made, at the civil, social, and governmental languages, to preserve this language?

For many years Tachelhit just  like other Amazigh languages were marginalized, banned, neglected and  excluded from public education. Tachelhit  speakers find themselves under pressure to integrate with a more  powerful linguistic group that's being described as more" beneficial"  but calls for more rights among Tachelhit and other Amazigh speakers  made it possible for Tachelhit to be included in public education.  Though it is being taught in primary schools  only a handful of schools have the ability and resources to teach it .  As an Amazigh language Tchelhit was finally recognized as one of the  official languages of Morocco where I was born. There is however more  work needed to fully raise the status of Tachelhit including teaching it  at the university level, providing translation and interpretation of  governmental materials for the inclusion of those who speak Tachelhit.



3. How often do you get the chance to use this language in your daily life?

Even though I live in the United states, I use this Tachelhit almost on  a daily basis when I communicate with Family and other Amazigh people.


4. Are you satisfied with the response of students in your department and your university to the available offerings in your language?

I can't say I am satisfied because many people don't even know about  the existence of such a language and people. While Millions of people  speak Tachelhit in Morocco most people think of Morocco as an Arab  country and I usually find myself having to educate people about  Tachelhit and its people.


5. What is your message to young people who wish to learn this language?

My message  would be first to people who are Chelouh to learn Tachelhit and not give  it up for the sake of other languages. Tachelhit is our identity and  losing it would mean losing who we are. I also encourage people from  other countries and other backgrounds to learn Tachelhit because it is  an ancient language that holds so much beauty in its expressions,  poetry, songs and speech. No language is more important than the other, a  language is what you make of it.