8 Things you should know about the languages of Morocco

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Morocco, a captivating country in North Africa, offers a rich blend of cultures. Despite its association with the iconic movie Casablanca, there is much more to Morocco than meets the eye. One intriguing aspect is its linguistic diversity, with a variety of languages spoken beyond Arabic and French. Here, we present eight essential points about the languages of Morocco.

1. Morocco’s Official Languages

There is an ongoing debate about the official language(s) of Morocco. While Modern Standard Arabic is widely considered the sole official language, some argue that Berber also holds this status. In formal settings, Modern Standard Arabic is preferred, and it is the language used in written documents and most schools. However, Moroccan society is predominantly bilingual, with individuals fluent in both Modern Standard Arabic and either a Berber language or Moroccan Arabic.

2. Moroccan Arabic: The Most Spoken Language

Although Modern Standard Arabic is used for official purposes, Moroccan Arabic, also known as Darija, is the most commonly spoken language in everyday life. Darija is a distinct dialect of Arabic that incorporates elements from Berber languages, French, and Spanish. While Modern Standard Arabic has a written form, Darija lacks a formal writing system and is primarily a spoken language. While some literature and poetry have been written in Darija, it is not widely practiced.

3. Diglossia in Morocco

Morocco experiences diglossia, a linguistic phenomenon where a community uses two distinct languages or dialects. In Morocco, Modern Standard Arabic is the “high” language or dialect used for formal and official purposes, while Moroccan Arabic serves as the “low” dialect for informal communication. Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools, but Moroccan Arabic is often used to explain complex concepts that students may find challenging in the high dialect.

4. The Influence of French

French, introduced during the French colonial era, plays a significant role in Morocco’s language landscape. Though Modern Standard Arabic remains the language for formal situations, French has become the common language in business and government circles. Viewed as the language of science and technology, French is embraced by many Moroccans as essential for global communication. Modern Standard Arabic, in contrast, is cherished as the traditional official language.

5. Berber: Morocco’s Indigenous Language

Berber encompasses a group of languages and dialects indigenous to North Africa, with the most significant number of speakers found in Algeria and Morocco. Berber dialects were spoken in Morocco long before Arabic was introduced, and their influence can be observed in Moroccan Arabic. Although Berber can still be heard in certain parts of Morocco, it is considered inferior to Arabic and French and is primarily used within Berber-speaking communities, rarely in writing.

6. Spanish in the Northern Regions

Given its proximity to Spain and historical ties, the northern regions of Morocco have a significant number of Spanish speakers. Spanish television programs and interactions within the community are conducted in Spanish, while Arabic or French may be used for business and official purposes. The influx of Spanish tourists, attracted by favorable exchange rates and a robust Spanish economy, has further contributed to the prevalence of the language.

7. The Rise of English

As with many countries worldwide, English is gaining popularity in Morocco. While French and Spanish remain more common as second languages, English is becoming the new language of choice for young Moroccans. The Moroccan government recognized this trend and, in 2002, implemented reforms to introduce English education in public schools from the fourth year onwards. Morocco’s drive to maintain international relations and keep pace with the modern world fuels the growing demand for English proficiency.

8. The Multilingualism of Moroccans

Moroccans are known for their linguistic diversity. With a plethora of languages spoken, including various Arabic dialects, French, Berber languages, Spanish, and now English, most Moroccans are bilingual or even trilingual. Modern Standard Arabic and French are essential for official purposes, while Moroccan Arabic, Berber dialects, and Spanish are commonly spoken at home and in informal settings. The linguistic tapestry of Morocco reflects its unique location and cultural heritage.

In conclusion, Morocco offers a captivating blend of languages that goes beyond Arabic and French. The linguistic diversity, including Moroccan Arabic, Berber languages, Spanish, and English, adds to the cultural richness of the country. Morocco’s embrace of multilingualism showcases its commitment to international connections and highlights the importance of language in bridging cultural boundaries.

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Tags: Morocco

Category: Foreign Language

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