Multi-lingual Morocco’s native languages include Moroccan Arabic, Standard Arabic and indigenous Tamazight (Amazigh/Berber). With this handy guide, learn some basics about the languages of morocco to navigate travel easier and impress the locals.
Morocco is a country with rich, linguistic diversity. Before traveling to any foreign country, it’s a good idea to know a few basic words and phrases prior to your visit. This will make it easier for you to navigate comfortably and it will show your respect for the local people.
Among the languages of Morocco, the official language is Darija, Moroccan Arabic. The native language of Morocco is Tamazight spoken by the Amazigh/Berber population and is usually spoken in the home.
However, many Moroccans are multi-lingual speakers, especially in touristic areas and large cities like Casablanca and Marrakech. Regions in the desert of Morocco and rural villages tend to speak more Tamazight.
Aside from Darija and Tamazight, French is the unofficial second language. Due to the strong French influence of Morocco’s past, nearly half of all Moroccans can speak French. French is often used in government and university jobs and taught in schools.
Spanish is a close second and more common in northern regions around Tangier or Tetouan. Having some knowledge or ability to speak either of these secondary languages will also help you along your journey especially in the northern regions closer to Europe.
A language all its own. While it may share some aspects of Modern Standard Arabic, Darija has a unique dialect. Differences from Moroccan Standard Arabic (MSA) are in pronunciation, grammar and expressions. Many Arabic speakers have difficulty understanding Darija. Below is a list of some basic Daija words and phrases to get you started on your linguistic journey.
Helpful Darija Words and Phrases
Hello/Peace be upon you – Saalam uwaleekum
Response: And also upon you – Wa’aleekum salaam
Goodbye – Ma’a salama or beslama
How are you? – La bas?
Good – Mezya
Yes – Iyah
No – La
O.K. – Wakha
Alright – iwa
Thank You – Shoukran
No Thank You – La Shoukran
You are welcome – Al’afw
My Name is…. – Esmee…
What is Your Name? – Asmeetak?
How much? (cost) – Shamal taman
It’s Beautiful – Zweena
I’m just looking around – Ghir tan chouf
This is Delicious! – Hadshi
I Don’t Understand – Ma femtesh
It’s not a problem – Meshi mushkil
Shame on you – Hashouma
Go Away – Seer
I am Sorry – Smeh-lia
Where is the toilet, please? – Fayn al toilet afak?
Good Morning – Sabah el kheyr (response: sabah al noor)
Good Evening – Massa al khair (response: massa al noor)
Some 15 million Moroccans speak some form of Tamazight. The name Tamazight also refers to other Amazigh languages of Morocco: Riff, Tuareg, Kabyle, Shawiya and Shila.
There are over 300 Tamazight dialects spoken in different regions around Morocco. Here are a few of the most common dialects according to the region:
Tamazight is found primarily in the Middle and High Atlas Mountains.
Tarifit – Rif Mountains.
Tashelhit – Anti-Atlas
Tuareg – Saharan.
The official script for Tamazight uses the Tifinagh alphabet, possibly derived from the ancient Amazigh/Berber script. In 2003, this alphabet was introduced into schools across Morocco. Slowly, Tamazight is becoming reintegrated back into the academic system.
Basic Tamazight Words and Phrases
Hello – Azoul
How are you? – Mataanit
I am great – La bas
Yes – Ah
No – Oho
Maybe – Imken
My name is… – Manis mank…
Goodbye – Sahit
Thank You – Shookran
Resources for Learning Moroccan Arabic
Speak Moroccan is a FREE comprehensive resource with an easy to navigate site that offers grammar lessons, vocabulary lists, exercises and phrases lists to help you grasp the language fast and effectively.
Loecsen is a FREE online interactive language learning course that provides short lessons with audio.
Arabic Pod 101 offers a fast and easy way to learn with your own personal teacher.
Talk in Arabic is a great resource with video and audio lessons.
Friends of Morocco is an organization of Peace Corps volunteers that offer amazing and valuable learning resources for everything you need to get started and keep learning.
Armchair Arabist Blogspot focuses on video and grammar lessons for all levels.
Memrise is another FREE language learning resource that is informative and fun.
More Helpful Learning Tools about the Languages of Morocco
One of the best and most effective ways to learn a new language is by listening to how people speak. Paying close attention to how words are pronounced and phrases are emphasized makes a huge difference when trying to communicate, especially as a beginner.
Here are a few tips and suggestions to increase your language learning skills.
Listen to the radio
Listening to talk radio in a foreign language in the background while cooking dinner or just lounging around will get you familiar with the dialect and the more you listen, the more you learn. Repetition is inevitable and before you know it, you’ll be singing the words to the latest pop song in Moroccan Arabic!
Two great sources are;
Watching Moroccan T.V.
Watching a Moroccan T.V. series and films that feature Moroccan Arabic will greatly enhance your learning of the language. There are several FREE options to watch via YouTube. Seeing how people’s mouths move while speaking, their facial expressions and reactions will be very helpful when you want to express yourself down the road when speaking your new language.
Here are a few entertaining and insightful suggestions to help your practice:
A couple of T.V. Series to watch are Master Chef Morocco learn the language plus the amazing cuisine of Morocco.
L’Couple is a semi comedy that revolves around the daily lives of a couple.
Films to checkout are Razzia and Much Loved.
Al Aoula T.V. is a public television channel with programs in Arabic, Tamazight, and French. http://www.alaoula.ma/index.php?lang=ar
It is helpful to watch the films with English subtitles to get a better understanding of what is going on and assist with your practice.
Read books about Moroccan Arabic
A few helpful books are
Lonely Planet Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook
An introduction to Moroccan Arabic by Ernest T. Abdel-Massih
A pocket-sized Moroccan Arabic Verb Dictionary by El Haloui and Steve Bowman will come in handy especially in remote areas or places where the internet is spotty.
Keep in mind that knowing “Please” and “Thank you” in any language will go a long way. Your efforts to try and communicate in the native language will be appreciated. Learning a language can be fun especially when you dedicate time to practice. Try not to worry about making mistakes, we all do!
The best way to practice what you’ve learned is to visit Morocco and put your words into action!