History & Society
Though most of us are not born linguists, striving to achieve even a small level of communication between ourselves and the inhabitants of the country we are visiting can be a most rewarding endeavour. Because of the varied historical influences on the people of Morocco, there is a large variety of languages spoken throughout the country. In order to help you in your pursuit to communicate better, we have provided a list of these languages.
Communicating to some degree in one of the nine living languages still spoken in Morocco can greatly enhance your experiences in the country. When Moroccans note your attempts to communicate, they are often treat you quite differently are become much more friendly and helpful. Thus, a world of adventure becomes opened to you, simply because you put a little effort into it.
Fortunately for us, most Moroccans are capable of speaking more than just one of their native languages. At least half of the country’s population is capable of speaking French and many of those involved in the tourism industry are capable of speaking some English and a few other foreign languages as well. This means you should be able to get by in most parts of the country quite easily without even trying very hard. But if you really want to open doors or have a less frustrating adventure, you should really try to speak a little Arabic or French.
There are several different forms of the various languages spoken in Morocco, as well as a few that are non-verbal. The following is a breakdown of the 11 listed languages that are or were spoken in Morocco:
Moroccan Arabic: This is the official language of Morocco. Though it is somewhat different from most other types of Arabic, most Moroccans can understand conventional Arabic.
Hassaniyya Arabic: Also known as Moor. Over 40 000 in Southern Morocco people speak this form of Arabic.
Judeo-Moroccan Arabic: Only about 8 925 people speak this form of Arabic. It is generally confined to certain small areas in Morocco.
Standard Arabic Most Moroccans can understand this form of Arabic which is spoken and written much throughout the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. Most Arabic television programs are in this form of Arabic.
Moroccan Sign Language: There is a large number of deaf men who speak sign language in the city of Oujda. It is hard to determine how many women are capable of sign language as they do not speak it in the streets. There are a few small deaf schools which teach the language though it is not generally used in Rabat, Tangier and Casablanca. Most people who use MSL cannot read or write Arabic. MSL is very different from American Sign Language and people conversant in the two sign languages would struggle to understand each other.
Spanish: Over 20 000 people in Morocco are capable of speaking Spanish. Besides being only a short distance away, Spain also acted as a protectorate of Morocco for a while after 1912. This resulted in Spanish influence in culture and language.
Tachelhit: 3 to 4 million of the people of Morocco speak this form of Berber.
Central Atlas Tamazight: This is also spoken by roughly 3 million of the inhabitants of Morocco. It is a dialect of Berber.
Tarifit: a lesser used dialect of the Berber language. It is spoken by about 1.5 million people in Morocco.
Ghomara: was a dialect of Berber which is generally considered to no longer be in use.
Senhaja de Srair: his is the fifth dialect of Berber which has also unfortunately fallen into disuse.
French: though not seen as an indigenous language in Morocco, at least half of the population is capable of speaking it. This is due to the strong French influence during the period of 1912 to 1956, which has also left a large amount of French architecture in parts of Morocco