Communication and Language among Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in Tunisia: Derja: A Phenomenon of Integration or Alienation?

Author: Ladhari Mohamed Ali (University of Sousse, Tunisia)
Speaker: Ladhari Mohamed Ali
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


African migration in the 21st Century takes place mainly by land, not by sea. African migrants’ destinations are overwhelmingly not to Europe or North America as the international media is painting the picture, but to each other’s countries. 53% of total African migrants resided within the region. North African countries however are usually countries of transit for sub-Saharan migrants that are hoping to cross the borders of the continent towards living the European dream.
Since 2011 and due to increasing dangers in Libya, migration trends towards Tunisia have greatly increased. However, Tunisia has proven to be a rigid country to find one’s self in for foreign migrants and asylum seekers. The asylum system is quite confusing and has been getting overburdened by the increasing number in asylum seekers to the country these past years.
Following this direction, it appeared necessary to us to make a survey addressing the sub-Saharan migrants’ relationship with the Derja language and their willingness to learn it.
This survey permitted us to conclude that, as most interviewees are not planning to stay in the country (either planning to go back to their home country or wanting to make it to Europe), a majority of them are either questioning the value of learning the Derja language or expressing that they would rather use their time working/ supporting their families as they judge learning the language as difficult and time consuming. Some expressed close to no desire to learn the language as they live in a small community of people from their country of origin and use their own language to quench their needs. Others find themselves comfortable using the French language with the natives and see no immediate importances to learning the native language as most Tunisians are skilled in a secondary language (French, English). Another set of migrants judged the language too difficult to learn for them as it sounded too strange, comparing what they hear to what they are used to hearing in their countries of origin.


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Keywords: Communication, migration, integration, motivation.