Morocco is a North African country located in the Maghreb. Its inhabitants include Berbers, Arabs, Moors, and Gnawa, with Arabs and Berbers being in the majority (together this equals 99.1% of the total population). Due to these demographic data, the official and main languages of Morocco are Arabic and Berber. The Berbers are indigenous and have gradually Arabized. Moroccan Arabs first appeared in the 12th century when they conquered the Maghreb, introducing Islam and the Arabic language. By adopting Islam, the Berbers have retained their traditional laws.
Other languages spoken in Morocco include Moroccan Arabic and Classical Arabic, Berber dialects, and foreign languages such as French, Spanish, and English.
Official languages spoken in Morocco
One of Morocco’s two official languages, Arabic is spoken by 80 to 90% of Moroccans, including many Berber speakers. There are three variants of the Arabic language used in the country: Moroccan Arabic called Darija, Standard Arabic, and Classical Arabic. Moroccans do not use standard Arabic for conversations in informal environments such as home or on the street; its use is rather limited to schools, mosques and administrative offices. Classical Arabic has its role in the literary and cultural aspects of the country, as well as in informal traditional speeches and religious discussions.
In rural areas, Berber is the primary vernacular language. Along with Moroccan Arabic, it is the most widely spoken language in informal contexts. As such, Berber is not used in writing, being a mother tongue. Many Moroccans do not place it on an equal footing with Arabic and, as such, they do not have prestigious status. The fact that the Berber has several dialects, which reduces the domain of each variant of the language, contributes to this low esteem. Berber is spoken by 60 to 80% of Moroccans.
Indigenous languages spoken in Morocco
Moroccan Arabic, also known as Moroccan Darija, is, together with the Berber language, an indigenous vernacular language spoken in informal settings at home and on the street, and is also not used in writing. Moroccan Arabic is mainly used in speeches and informal conversations. Many Berbers speak fluent Moroccan Arabic, using it as a lingua franca; this is because the Berber language has too many versions, which makes it difficult for people from different Berber backgrounds to understand. Another Arabic dialect is Hassanic Arabic, also known as Hassānīya, which is spoken by 0.7% of Moroccans.
Berber dialects include the Riffian dialect, used in the Rif region of northern Morocco, which has the fewest speakers. Among the Berber dialects is the Tachlhit dialect, used in Souss-Massa-Drâa, Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz, Tadla-Azilal, which has the largest number of speakers among the Berber dialects. In central Morocco, the Tamazight dialect is common and is the second most common Berber dialect in the country. Berber dialects include the Senhaja de Srair, Ghomara, Figuig Shilha, and Eastern Zenati.
Main foreign languages spoken in Morocco
The main foreign languages spoken in Morocco are French, Spanish and English. French, spoken by 33 to 39% of Moroccans, is second only to Arabic as a prestigious language in Morocco, of which the use is mainly in administration, business and diplomacy. Spanish is spoken by 21% of Moroccans, the use being mainly in the North, where Spain once occupied territories. English is spoken by 14% of Moroccans, the use being mainly made by young educated people.
Moroccan Sign Language
Developed by U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in the city of Tetouan in 1987, Moroccan sign language is used by the deaf in Tetouan and other cities across the country. The use of the language is not on a national scale and some large cities such as Rabat, Casablanca, and Tangier do not use it. For example, Algerian sign language is used in Oujda, a city near the Algerian border.
A number of languages are spoken in the North African country of Morocco. Arabic and Berber are the official languages of the country. Statistics show that most people in Morocco are multilingual. The presence of several dialects, as evidenced by the existence of classical Arabic, standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic, in addition to the various Berber dialects, has contributed to the linguistic complexity of the country. Other foreign languages spoken in the country include French (which the vast majority of them understand), Spanish in northern Morocco, while English is an international language used by young educated people in Morocco.