Morocco Languages

By | June 13, 2021

The challenge of multilingualism

The languages of Morocco deserve a chapter of their own. Average Moroccan children today grow up speaking at least three languages: Arabic, French, Darija. An estimated 40% of Moroccans also grow up with one of the Berber languages as their mother tongue. In addition, there is Spanish in some regions. Morocco’s multilingualism is an immense cultural wealth, but also a challenge, both for educational policy as well as for parents. They are increasingly faced with the question of whether their children should learn Tamazight in addition to Arabic and French or rather English or both. The following explanations are partly based on the book “Le drame linguistique marocain” by the Moroccan literary scholar Fouad Laroui. It offers a structured and detailed introduction to the subject.

According to homosociety, Arabic is the official language of Morocco. French does not have this official status. In fact, it is just as important as Arabic, albeit in other areas. French is essential in Morocco if you want to get a good position in business or administration. At the end of 2019/2020, there was intense debate in Morocco about the role of French in studies.

Masirian (Tamazight, Amazigh, Berber) is less relevant for social advancement. It is referred to as ONE official language in the new constitution.

Modern Standard Arabic (Fussha)

Modern standard Arabic is based on the language of the Koran. Since the 19th century, the standard Arabic language has been modernized by Arabic scholars, especially from Lebanon and Egypt. In Morocco, Standard Arabic is used today in schools, in administration, in religious contexts and to some extent in the media and in literature. Since Arabic is the language of revelation from the point of view of the Muslims, the standard Arabic language has a very high priority. However, many Moroccans have a rather average knowledge of Standard Arabic in practice.

Moroccan Slang Arabic (Darija)

The colloquial language of almost all Moroccans is the so-called Maghrebara, which is also called Darija and which is spoken in various dialects in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. Darija is based on an Arabic basic structure, with lexical and grammatical borrowings from Masirian and with many loan words from French and Spanish (simana = week; cusina = kitchen; plasa = seat on the bus). Darija is not a written language. However, it is occasionally used in advertising in both Arabic and Latin transcriptions.

Tamazight (Berber)

Morocco is currently the country with the largest Berberophone population in North Africa. According to an estimate by the Paris research institute INALCO, over 40 percent of Moroccans speak or understand one of the dialects of Tamazight in addition to the Moroccan-Arabic colloquial language. Language skills, however, vary considerably; More and more Moroccans can understand the language of their parents and grandparents, but cannot speak it themselves. This explains why some statistics put the number of Berberophone Moroccans closer to around 35 percent. An official survey of the state Ministry of Planning (HCP) even came to only 27 percent in 2014/2015 – whereupon Berber activists and linguists protested violently and questioned the methods of statistical collection.

Compared to other countries in North Africa, the proportion of Berberophone people in Morocco is high. The Arabic colloquial language Darija is particularly strongly influenced by the Berber substrate, which is noticeable in phonetics, vocabulary and even grammatical structures.

The Masirian dialects in Morocco differ regionally. A distinction is made between three language areas: in the south-west the people speak Tachelhit, in the High and Middle Atlas Tamazight and in the Rif Mountains, the “Rif-Amazigh” or Tarifit.

In order to be able to teach Tamazight in schools, Moroccan linguists have developed a standard version that takes up elements of the three language areas, whereby the Tamazight of the Middle Atlas and the region around Marrakech is decisive. Tamazight has theoretically been a school subject in Morocco for several years. However, the language is not compulsory and the range of courses is by no means extensive. There is also strong criticism of the methods and training of language teachers.

Morocco Languages

National symbols

National anthem

The Moroccan national anthem is also called ” Hymn of the Sherif ” (dynasty of the Alaouites). She praises God, the king and the Alaouite dynasty and the fatherland.

National flag

In its current form (green five-pointed star / pentagram on a red background) the Moroccan flag has existed since 1915. Red was the color of the Sherif of Mecca and the ruler of Yemen. Green is the color of Islam.

National coat of arms

The current national coat of arms of Morocco was introduced in August 1957 with the proclamation of Mohammed V as King of Morocco. The design comes from the graphic artists Gauthier and Hainaut. In the center there is a green pentagram on red, behind it the Atlas Mountains and a rising sun. Above it can be seen the royal crown. Two lions act as shield holders. On the ribbon below is a verse from the Koran, in Arabic. In German the verse can be understood as follows: If you help Allah, he will help you. (Quran, sura 47, verse 7).