Fashion and a new way to express feelings.. Arabic infiltrates the French youth dictionary
Using Arabic words has become a way for young French people to express themselves, just as many people use English to appear attractive.
Whether you live on the outskirts of Paris or in the most prestigious neighborhoods of the French capital, it is normal to hear Arabic words daily on the tongues of the French youth. What is the origin of this phenomenon? And why do the French use phrases from the Arabic language?
In a report published by the newspaper “Le Figaro” (Le FigaroFrench, writer Marie Levin Michalik says that words such as “Wallah”, “Khallass” and “Khapta”, have become common and widespread phrases among French youth, and are understood by almost everyone, even though they are non-French words.
“It’s Arabic, I think,” says the young Frenchman, who has never visited Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia. “This is the way we speak, it is the language of young people today.” His compatriot Barty, 20, confirms that she uses phrases such as “knock” and “take care” daily.
According to the writer, what is striking is that these phrases are not only used in the suburbs of Paris, where members of the Maghreb community live, but they also infiltrated the bourgeoisie.
The French linguist Jean Provost – the author of the book “Our Arab Ancestors” – says that in the past, the French language absorbed many words from Italian and Spanish, as well as from Arabic, such as “Café” (coffee), “orange” (orange), and “épinard”. ‘ (spinach), and ‘tasse’ (cup).
According to Provost, the cross-fertilization between the French and Arabic languages began during the Crusades, and then many words appeared in the French language of Arabic origin, such as “visir” (the minister), “emir” (the prince), and products such as “café” (coffee) and “argan” (argan), and other words during the war with Algeria such as “bled” (country), and it continued through parallel trade, rap songs and other factors. The latest estimates indicate that there are about 500 words in the French language of Arabic origin.
“We use these phrases in our daily lives and express our feelings through them,” says the young French Arthur. There are many examples, such as “La hchouma” (“decency”), “la moula” which means money, and “bsahtek” (with your health) which means well done.
The writer believes that the use of Arabic words has become a way for French youth to express themselves, just as many use the English language to appear attractive. “It’s a fashion, we just use it to keep up with the times,” says Barty.
Luke Bechley, a sociolinguist and lecturer at the University of Avignon, explains that the Arabic used in France “is mainly Maghreb Arabic, and literary Arabic is rarely used in France.”
French youth use many Arabic phrases related to family and friends, such as “les khouyas”, which means brothers, and “sahbi”, which means my friend. Beechley adds that many of the phrases related to insults have become inspired by Arabic, such as the phrase “miskin”, which means poor.
Rap and social media
Beechley, who has written a treatise on languages and pathways of integration for North African immigrants in France, continues that many of the religious background phrases and other words come from rap songs.
Among the songs that gained great popularity among the French youth, was the song “Bande Organisée”, which brought together singer Julian Marie with 157 rappers from Marseille and Paris, in which he used Arabic words such as “Khuba” and “Praise be to God”.
“These phrases come from rap music, but also from social media, reality TV, football and fun activities like online games,” says Barty.
Beechley believes that the sources of these phrases are indeed numerous, including rap songs and social networking sites, so the younger generation picks them up, but many of them do not enter the French dictionary.
And Bechley continues – in this context – “some will remain, and others will disappear, this is normal,” but the spread of these phrases does not, in his opinion, indicate the extent to which the French language is affected by Arabic, although “these words constitute our understanding of the world.”