The TUNI1259 Institute is the story in four acts, of a father, Ramzi Hachani, and his daughter, Elyssa:
- Father wants to teach Daughter his native tongue. He speaks to her since her birth exclusively (almost) in Tunisian. She starts to understand what he says and is often capable of responding in Tunisian. However, other languages compete for Daughter’s attention: Italian from Mother, Spanish from Nanny, French and Standard Arabic from Tutors, and English from everyone else. To further complicate matters, attractive reading material in Tunisian is extremely rare, compared to these other languages. Father starts translating on the fly stories from other languages into Tunisian as he reads bedtime stories to Daughter.
- Daughter starts pre-school. She speaks English exclusively for more than 8 hours per day with her teachers and schoolmates. Her level of English improves dramatically, as she starts recognizing the letters of the alphabet. Her knowledge of the alphabet is easily transportable to Italian, Spanish and French, consequently her level in those languages improves as well. Daughter’s level of Standard Arabic slowly improves with Tutor, and so does her level of Tunisian, as Father continues speaking to her in Tunisian. Standard Arabic Tutor introduces her to the Arabic script, which Daughter qualifies, to Father’s dismay, “a bunch of Scribble-Scrabble”. In June 2015, Father decides to start working on adapting the Latin script for Tunisian.
- Birth of the “Elyssa Alphabet”. Father, an amateur linguist but an avid researcher, spends 4 months researching before producing the first version of the Tunisian Latin alphabet in September 2015, which he shares with some people (Tunisians and non-Tunisians, linguists and non-specialists – Special thanks to Dr Ferid Chekili) to gather their input. The inputs come in, more research and fine tuning is required. Many releases later, by December 2015, the current version of the Alphabet is finalized. It gets the approval of Daughter who manages to spell out a short text written in the new alphabet.
- To live eternally, an alphabet has to be written and read. Father finally gathers his courage and shares the Elyssa Alphabet (aka Tunisian Latin alphabet) with the world: in November 2015 this web site is created; in February 2016, we publish the first children’s book – Kùrti il-ħamra – in Tunisian using the new alphabet.