Learning Tashlaheet, Tachelhit

I’m not going to lie, I like a bit of approval. Speaking Arabic usually scores me a hefty 9/10. Learning Tashlaheet, Tachelhit, the local Amazigh (Berber) language pushes that up to 99.9%. Hold on, who am I kidding? 100%!

When I moved to Imlil, I honestly thought I knew a lot about Morocco, having lived in Essaouira, Guelmim and Marrakech. I was so wrong. I really knew very little about the Amazigh culture and only had a few words of the language. For me, language and culture are inextricably linked. There is no word for angry in Tashalheet, Tachelhit, for example.

I live with four families in the compound and, in this gendered society, socialise mainly with the women when I am at home. Of course, when I am out walking, it is usually with male guides so I do get a good balance.

It quickly became clear that learning Tashlaheet, Tachelhit, was going to be a necessity if I really wanted to fit in. And I always want to fit in. The women and children don’t speak Arabic at home – and there is nothing worse than sitting, drinking tea and not understanding what is going on.

Truly, it has taken me far too long to grasp the nettle and get my head down. I definitely over-relied on learning Tashlaheet, Tachelhit by asking for words or phrases and then writing them down on my phone and producing them at every possible opportunity.

First challenge up was remembering words when I had nothing similar to attach them to. So I tried funny approximations: My first phrase was Maman Cad Git – How are you?  (Maminka tgit) and it worked!

As you can imagine, there have been quite a few slip ups. The words for woman and goat sound disastrously similar to my ears and I fear I have caused grave offence more than once.

Pronunciation is an ongoing source of amusement – what language has not one, not two, but THREE ‘r’s! Surely an offense against linguistics.

Alice: ‘Hussein can I have three loaves of arghum (bread) please?

Hussein: ‘Aghrum?’

Alice: ‘Yes, arghum.’

Hussein: ‘Ah you want aghrum?’

This conversation can easily last five minutes. 

The other classic is when I am asking people how to say something.

Alice: ‘How do I say, I am going to Marrakech tomorrow?’ raddough si Marrakech lsbah

Fatma: ‘You are going to Marrakech tomorrow.’ Rattout si Marrakech lsbah

Alice: ‘No, I am going to Marrakech tomorrow.’

Play on a loop.

Fortunately, I found myself a wonderful teacher, Ikram, and twice a week we now yell at each other across a bad zoom connection. Things have got much better and I am starting –  to begin-  to initially get there – although I still default to Arabic far too often.

I do have one word that I still need to conquer – the verb ‘ghr’ to read. I read a book is therefore ghrgh gh lknansh. If you are thinking of learning Tashlaheet, Tachelhit, and can get your tongue round that, I reckon you’re going to be a winner!

If you enjoyed Learning Tashlaheet, Tachelhit, there are more tales from the mountains on my podcast, Alice in wAnderland

OR check out Adventures in Morocco.

One comment on “Learning Tashlaheet, Tachelhit

  1. Fatima Zahra Ajjoul on

    Hello Alice,
    A pleasure to read your posts as usual. For the Tachlheet equivalent for “angry” we say “tiyeras”(طيراس) in the region of Sous. I’ll ask for other equivalents and let you know.


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