Introduction / History The speakers of the Chenoua language are all Muslim. To our knowledge, there are no evangelical Christians or churches in their midst and no missionaries working among. They live in a country in which it is difficult to work. Border restrictions, and travel limitations make it difficult for the missionaries to get to these people. Pray that God will open the door for them to hear the Good News in their own language. Pray for Bible translation to begin and for availability of the Jesus Film and audio Gospel messages.
What are their lives like? The Chenoui (in Berber "ichenwiyen", plural). The language is still spoken by the majority (just) in the region bordering the Mediterranean from the touristy town of Tipasa (famous Roman remains), an hour's drive west of the capital, and running further west to just short of the town of Tenes. Including the area down to the river Chelif which runs to the south, we have a more or less rectangle. Within that are three dialects:
a) Chenoui proper. These are the people living close to Mount Chenoua, including Tipasa. This is a smallish population circa 15,000 - 20,000.
b) Beni Menacer. This is the name of the major tribe in the region. They are less distinctive in their identity, but they still do speak the language. They are more populous.
c) Djebel Bissa. This is the name of another mountain, in the eastern part of the region. It is not an official dialect name. In fact the people there feel particularly marginalised, don't have a distinct identity, and are particulary poor. They feel the government ignores them when it comes to development. When asked what they speak they often reply "Kabyle", though their dialect is significantly different from Kabyle which is spoken 100 miles to the east. The Djebel Bissa dialect is spoken in a handful of villages, but in no towns of any signficant size.
There is a fourth dialect spoken near Blida, described today as Blida Atlas Berber, but formerly referred to by the French colonial linguist by the tribal name Beni Salah. These people are geographically separate from the other three. The only speakers are over 60 or so, and so are the last generation. There are probably less than 100. Efforts are being made to preserve, or at least to document this variety by a national linguist and by the national radio station that broadcasts in minority languages.
The Chenoui language is today largely a rural phenomenon. It used to be spoken south of the river Chelif in the Ouarsenis mountains, but all speakers have left or died.
Many parents prefer to teach their children Arabic, for educational advantage, but the children still pick up the language where it is widely used in daily life.
Many of the villages have been evacuated during the last 15 or 20 years, first because of the civil war then because of terrorist threats (Al Qaeda hideouts). With immigration to the towns we get further language loss.
There is a radio station broadcasting in Chenoui. There are some associations in the region, where people gather from time to time to celebrate the language and its culture.
There are some known Christians, worshiping in churches outside the Chenoui region. We also know of some believers who have emigrated to Europe.
Aïn Defla province: north of Khemis; Chlef province: Mount Bissa area; Tipasa province: generally Mount Chenoua area; dialects: Chenoui in Mount Chenoua area, Beni Menacer to south and west; Djebel Bissa dialect in Tacheta forest area, and Beni Haoua village (Genevois and Reesink 1973). (Source: Ethnologue 2016)