The main spoken language in Morocco is Moroccan Arabic, which has fewer vowels than other dialects and includes a number of Spanish and French words. There are also three Amazigh (Berber) languages—Tarifit, in the northern Rif; Tamazight, in the Middle Atlas and eastern High Atlas; and Tashelhit, in the western High Atlas, Souss Valley, and Anti-Atlas. French is widely spoken. There is no difference between the French spoken here and that used in France, except perhaps the presence of fewer colloquialisms, so any standard French phrase book will serve you well. There's usually no problem communicating in English at hotels and bigger restaurants. The official written languages are Arabic and French, and most signs are written in both, so you don't need to know Arabic script to find your way around. Numerals within Arabic script are the same Arabic numerals we use in English (unlike those used in Middle Eastern countries).

It's difficult to learn Moroccan Arabic on location, because unless you look Moroccan you will nearly always be addressed in French. Generally, a good French phrasebook will be of much more use than an Arabic one. Still, it's useful to know some key words for proper greetings and for situations where no one speaks French.

Language Programs. Courses in Moroccan Arabic are taught at the American Language Center in Rabat, Casablanca, Fez, and Marrakesh. The center in Fez, in collaboration with some American universities, also offers an excellent program in classical and Moroccan Arabic through its ALIF (Arabic Language in Fez—alif is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet) program. The Centre Culturel Français offers French courses in all major cities.

The Center for Cross-Cultural Learning in a beautiful 19th-century building in the Rabat medina has excellent courses in Fus’ha (classic Arabic), Darija (Moroccan Arabic), and the Amazigh (Berber) languages. It offers intense learning sessions of two weeks as well as courses lasting two to three months. It also offers private lessons, lecture series, and occasional cultural tours with language learning.

Larger cities have many small companies offering classes in French and Moroccan Arabic, but quality and prices vary. Local public universities have been known to offer courses at greatly reduced prices (the same tuition charged Moroccan students) to foreigners staying in Morocco for a longer stint.


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