Oral culture has always been a dominant feature of African countries such as Algeria. Through this means of communication helped transmitting knowledge, customs, traditions, religion and stories that survived generation after another. During family or community gatherings there was always an old person who would take the lead and embark the audience in a series of tales that would inspire more than a fantasy writer.
Dj’ha or sometimes called Djoha, in classical Arabic, is one of those inspiring funny, but suprisely smart characters. It is believed that he lived in Turkey during the 13th century. He is popular among many countries and his name changes accordingly to the location. So he is called Nesredine Khodja or Hoca in Turkey, Uzbekistan, Bosnia, Albania and Iran, but also Molay Nesredine in India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In the Arab world Dj’ha is known as Djoha for the Maghreb and Goha for Egypt and the Middle East.
As a protagonist of many short stories he was portrayed as being a very popular and sociable unwealthy man. Dj’ha is also remembered for his anecdotes. He “appears in thousands of stories, sometimes witty, sometimes wise, but often, too, a fool or the butt of a joke.” (Wekipedia)
One of Djoha’s famous folktales is about a nail. The story goes that he sold his house except for one nail in a wall, with a stipulation that he could come back and do whatever he wanted with the nail. So later whenever he would get annoyed with the new owner of the house, he would come back and hammer on the nail. Hence the expression “Dj’ha’s nail” مسمار جحا which means to resist to something or someone.
It is common in the Algerian course books to find stories based –tasks and it is with no doubt that Djoha’s famous adventures have been incorporated to teach foreign languages such as French and English but also wisdom and moral values.
Englis teachers for instance find it quite easy to get learners attention when talking about this nationally well-known character. Thus, and to maximize their talking time, teacher can:
- Divide a class in small groups of 4
- Ask learners to share one or two stories they know.
- Set a limited time to 3 to 4 minutes
While learners are exchanging their stories, teacher would monitor and note down the errors and commonly mistranslated words into English.
- After a whole classroom feedback, teacher tries to elicit the morality of each story from the learners.
- Teacher will then note down the mistakes and ask again the groups to reflecect on their mistakes and try to correct them.
Of course there are many other activities that can be deisgned and which can cover the four main skills, i.e. speaking, listening, writing and reading. But it is always worth nothing that by introducing Algerian national folktalks would make learning much more fun and creative.
If Dj’ha went beyond inky words to our screen and educative material that shows that we are in an age that does not neglect valuable original materials that would endlessly colors our imagination.