Languages spoken in Morocco have made the country one of the most diverse countries globally, and therefore it plays a prominent and strategic role globally. Moroccan speak not only their national languages, Arabic and Tamazight; they also speak international languages such as French, Spanish and English.
Languages in Morocco
Moroccan Arabic “Darija”: Facts and Culture
- Moroccan Arabic (called Darija) — This is the primary language of the country. This is even though the majority of Moroccans are of Amazigh background.
- It is a dialect that is spoken amongst all Moroccans. These include families, friends, shopkeepers, offices, cab drivers, schools, shopping centers, etc.
- Darija is hardly a written dialect as it is mostly used when speaking and interacting. Almost everybody in Morocco understands It.
- Some of the Darija vocabulary stays unchanged. Yet, some people include French or Spanish words when interacting with each other.
- Amazigh people, the aboriginals of Morocco, learn to speak Arabic Darija, and they speak it between themselves at times.
Conventional Arabic language
- The Arabic language creates a cohesive relationship between the Arabs and the Amazigh population. However, Darija is being influenced by other languages such as French and Spanish.
- The conventional Arabic language is a modern standard language. It is used in government offices, schools, religious sermons, books, newspapers, news broadcasts and talk shows…etc.
- The standard Arabic language is predominant, given its religious and cultural status.
Berber Tamazight Dialect
- The Berbers are indigenous to North Africa for thousands of years. Tamazight language is one of the oldest languages of humanity.
- Tamazight is widely used as a way of communication among non-Arab speakers. There are three types of Tamazight dialects: Tarifit, central Atlas Tamazight, Tachehit.
- Tamazight Alphabets are called TIFINAGH, which consists of 32 alphabets. They are rarely written as not many people know how to write them.
- Amazigh language is the first language spoken in Morocco before Arabic. This was when Islam was spread to northern Africa in the 7th century.
- The Arabic language is extensively talked about amongst Moroccans. Yet, the Amazigh language is spoken by almost 70% of Moroccans.
- Tamazight is the most spoken language per capita in the country. This is because 70 % of Moroccans have a Berber heritage.
- Tarifit speakers live in the North part of Morocco. Tamazight dialect is mainly spoken in the Atlas Mountains. Tachelhit is mostly spoken in the south of Morocco. It covers from the region of Marrakesh downward to the “souss” region.
Moroccan Constitution: Approval of Tamazight and its recognition
- Tamazight was widely spoken in Morocco for centuries and before even Arabic. Yet, it was not recognized as the official language until recently. The Moroccan constitution approved it to be one of the official languages besides Arabic. Thus, It became the official language in 2011, and since then, Tamazight in creating it deserving space the Moroccan society.
- The Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) is an academic institution located in Rabat, dedicated to preserving the Amazigh culture and language. IRCAM) plays a significant role in making sure the Tamazight language and culture are not lost or forgotten. This way, it gets passed on to the next generations to come.
- Tamazight is now taught in primary schools as well as in universities. This gives all Moroccans to rediscover this almost forgotten heritage and ancient language.
El Hassaniya Dialect Language: Facts
- Hassaniya is a form of Arabic dialect that is widely spoken in southern Moroccan provinces. It used to be just Bedouin dialect.
- Beni Ḥassān people, Bedouin tribes, widely speak Hassaniya. This was because Beni Ḥassān Bedouin extended their authority between the 15th and 17th centuries.
- The Bedouin tribes covered the space of Mauritania land into Morocco’s southeastern and Western Sahara. Thus, the Sahrawi people widely speak it in their interactions.
- It covers a wide geographical area. From the Noun river “WAD NOUN” in southern Morocco to the Senegal River in southern Mauritania
- It is the language spoken by Mauritanian Arab-Berbers. It is spoken in southeastern and southwest of Morocco as well.
- It is estimated that there are about 40000 who speak this dialect. It is still the mother tongue of and the primary language they use to interact.
- It has many phonetic and morphological traits that make it unique. It is a mixture of classical Arabic and is one of the nomadic or rural Arabic dialects.
- Hassaniya is a distinct dialect that contains a vibrant Berber vocabulary and its expressions in many fields. These include medicinal herbs, agriculture, and geographical names.
- The inclusion of Berber words in the Elhassaniaya dialect is very expected and not so coincidence. This is because many regions that speak the Hassani dialect were primarily Beber/Amazigh. It replaced its original language, which was Berber/Tamazight.
- Even though it is not as dominant in Morocco, yet it is spread sparingly throughout the country. There is about 1 % population that speaks the Hassani language in Morocco. Most of them are primarily in the Southern provinces.
International Languages Morocco: French, Spanish and English
Back in time, Moroccan people used only to speak either Arabic or Tamazight. No foreign languages were introduced before the colonialism era. The French language was introduced to Morocco at the time of French colonization. Thus, the French language in Morocco has started since the French colonization of Morocco in 1912. Since then, the French language was infiltrated into Moroccan society and culture.
After acquiring its independence, Morocco started the Arabization process. Yet, the French language was maintained and untouched.
Today, you still see French in all sectors as the French authorities integrated it into all crucial sectors:
- Government offices
The Spanish language was introduced to Moroccan by Spanish-Speaking Andalusian Muslims and by the Spanish government at the time of Morocco’s Spanish occupation. This was when it acted as a protectorate of the country after 1912. Since then, the Spanish language has influenced the language and the culture of Morocco. Today there are about 4 million Moroccans who speak or understand Spanish. Most of them are Moroccans who live in the northern regions of the country. This is because these regions are close to Spain. Also, they are so many trade activities and high Spanish tourism in northern regions.
Even though French and Spanish are widely spoken in the country, the English language is rising in Morocco. Larger cities, Casablanca, Marrakech.., are quickly implementing English as their first “foreign” language.
The English language is the second widely spoken foreign language in the country. This is according to recent data revealed by the High Commission for Planning.
The English language constitutes an integral component of universal languages. There are about 18.3% who can read and write in English in Morocco. This is according to the General Census of Population and Housing (RGPH 2014). Most of them are educated younger generation, and the number continues to grow.
When doing street shopping, you will notice that the sellers use English to interact with tourists. Some of them would call out for your attention and negotiate a sale in English.
In Morocco, English is being taught in:
- Moroccan private schools.
- Government schools and universities
- English private centers such as British and American centers
There many actors that lead to The widespread of English in Morocco:
- The booming tourist numbers in recent years, the widespread of the internet and the use of social media
- Morocco is opening up its doors and has received many foreign investors from all over the world.
- English has become a critical skill for Moroccans looking for international job positions to work with international companies.
- Globalization and increased demand for English language skills.
Many companies integrate English as essential to hire job prospects in many fields:
- Medical/ Clinics
- Hotel business, museums
- Tourism, foreign business affairs
- Science, IT (Information Technology).
- Big shops, business, and transport companies
There so many resources online where you can acquire Moroccan Arabic “Darija.” Here is some Moroccan Arabic Nitty-gritty:
Meet and Greet
Good morning———- Sabah Al Kheer.
Good evening—— Mssa Al Kheer.
Thank you——- Shoukran