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Morocco Language - What language do Moroccans Speak?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

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Morocco is a beautiful country, with a diverse and exotic culture that seems worlds away from our western lives, full of strange traditions, customs and sounds. The language of Moroccans is also a diverse and complex mixture.

Here, I'll try and help you to understand the language of Morocco.

The official language of Morocco is Arabic. Classical Arabic is the written word, but spoken Arabic has it's own Moroccan dialect – Darija. Darija isn't just a regional accent of Classical Arabic, but has it's own words and vocabulary. This is further complicated by regional dialects.

For example, the Darija spoken in Casablanca is not the same as the Darija spoken in Marrakech. It is mostly the same, but there are, in some instances, completely different words for the same thing, or a variation in how the word is pronounced.

Some Darija is also written, particularly in chatrooms, text messages and online, with bizarre numbers in the words to further confuse non-speakers – for example, Moroccans may write a word such as '3chire' – this is actually pronounced 'ehhchire' – the '3' indiciates a long, drawn out 'e' sound. Other numbers used to indicate pronunciation are 2, 5, 7 and 9.

Even today, many Arabic speakers from other countries fail or struggle to understand spoken Darija, as it has so many deviations from Classical standard Arabic.

As well as Arabic and Darija, a large percentage of the population is Berber (known as Amazigh). Amazigh are native North Africans, from the times before the Arabs came to North Africa. They have their own language. Well – they actually have a number of them, depending on where they are from. The generic name for these languages is Tamazight. Variations include: Rif, Tashelhiyt, Taqbaylit and Touareg. There is also a written Amazigh alphabet, which is dramatically different to regular written languages, made up largely of symbols to represent letters, as shown below.

berber alphabet example

Today many Amazigh living outside of the cities still use their Amazigh tongue as their primary language, with Darija their second language. And Darija uses many Amazigh words as part of the standard dialect.

Following French occupation, a number of French words have also become a part of the spoken Darija. French is also widely spoken and the majority of Moroccans are fluent speakers of French. In the north of Morocco, it is also common for the locals to mix Spanish or occasionally, Portugese words into their spoken communications.

So, while it's easy to presume that Moroccans speak Arabic, as you can see, the reality is far more diverse.

The top 3 most common Moroccan Languages:

  • Darija (Moroccan Arabic)
  • Tamazight (Berber)
  • French

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Nov 2, 2010 3:00am
Wow. This is an article I enjoy reading. I've never been to Morocco. Also, I've never met someone from Morocco until recently. May I ask how did you became interested in the country? I'm thinking you may be from that country.
Nov 2, 2010 4:11am
Thanks Freedom - I majored in North African and Middle Eastern literature for my MA and my husband is Amazigh. We spend a lot of time in Morocco, hence the interest. Glad you enjoyed reading it!
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