French language in Morocco

French and Arabic (MSA) coexist in Moroccan administration and business.

French is one of the two prestige languages of Morocco,[1] is often used for business, diplomacy, and government,[2] serving as a lingua franca.[3] Aleya Rouchdy, author of Language Contact and Language Conflict in Arabic, said that "For all practical purposes, French is used as a second language."[4]

Different figures of French speakers in Morocco are given. According to the OIF, 33% of Moroccans speak French, among them 13.5% fully francophone and 19.5% partially francophone.[5] According to the 2004 census, 69% of literate people can read and write French.[6]


In 1912 the French colonial authorities in Morocco introduced the French language to the country, making it the language of government administration, educational instruction, and the media; therefore Classical Arabic was only used for traditional activities and religious services. The French government had intended for the French culture and the French language to be viewed as "civilization and advancement".[1] In 1956 Morocco declared independence, and in the government declared Classical Arabic as the official language. In the early 1960s the Moroccan government began the Arabization process.[1] After independence, to facilitate economic growth and to increase its ties to Europe, the Moroccan government decided to strengthen its ties with France, resulting in the promotion of French. By 2005 Morocco engaged in economic liberalisation and privatization; Ennaji said that these activities, in many sectors, reinforced the usage of French.[7]

As of 2014 75% of Facebook users in Morocco post in French.[8]

Role and purpose

French is mainly used in administration, banking, commerce, education, and industry. Rouchdy said that within Morocco, French "is the vehicle of science, technology, and modern culture."[1] Rouchdy further explained that the language had been "maintained for instrumental purposes and for building contacts with the West in general."[1] The French language became entrenched in various aspects of Moroccan society, including education, government, the media, and the private sector due to the French colonial authority enacting a policy to spread the French language throughout Morocco during the colonial era.[4] As of 2005, trade with France makes up over 75% of Morocco's international trade. Moha Ennaji, author of Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco, said "[i]n this context, one can understand the important status of French, whose colonial connotations have been erased or at least drastically reduced by independence."[7]

Moroccans learn the French language at school. Secondary school graduates tend to achieve French fluency, and many Moroccans become fluent in French in addition to Moroccan Arabic and use French as their second language. Most Moroccans who are bilingual in French and Arabic live in urban areas where they have strong contact with the French language and where there are high literacy rates. Many Moroccans learn French to conduct business with French tourists; gain access to information, science, and technology; and to attend French-speaking educational facilities. Ennaji said that Moroccans learn French for educational, pragmatic, and sociocultural reasons.[9] Ennaji said "The degree of mastery of French depends on the bilingual's level of education and socio-economic background, for the higher the level of education and the wealthier the family background, the bigger the frequency of speaking French and the more frequent the alternative use of French and Moroccan Arabic by a bilingual. These factors determine the bilingual's ability to choose one or the other language in a particular speech situation."[9]

Abdelâli Bentahila, the author of the 1983 book Language Attitudes among Arabic–French Bilinguals in Morocco, said that Moroccans who were bilingual in both French and Arabic commonly spoke French when discussing matters related to reading, while at a pharmacy, while discussing matters with a doctor or employer, and while discussing scientific and technical topics.[10] In Morocco, French has connotations of formality; Ennaji said that Moroccans tended to use French while discussing matters at work or at school,[9] and therefore French is commonly spoken in offices and schools.[11] If the other party in a conversation is French educated, Moroccans often speak in French or a mixture of Moroccan Arabic and French.[9] French has a prestigious status in Moroccan society, so many bilingual Moroccans mix French and Moroccan Arabic in conversation or use French words in informal Moroccan Arabic conversations.[9] According to Ennaji, in writing bilingual Moroccans only use French, and bilingual Moroccans tend to discuss scientific and technical topics only in French.[9]

Rouchdy said "The predominance of French implies that the chances of strengthening the place of Classical Arabic are reduced."[1]

Attitudes toward French

Despite the legacy of colonialism, according to Rouchdy, "French is still widely appreciated by both the ruling elite and the general public."[1] Ennaji said "most Moroccans know that Standard Arabic does not meet all their societal needs and that a European language is necessary for the transfer of ideas and technology, and for communication with the world at large, even if this European language is none but the ex-coloniser's language."[7] Rouchdy added that Classical/Modern Arabic and French are constantly in conflict with one another, but that most Moroccans believe that the bilingualism of Classical Arabic and French is the most optimal choice to allow for Morocco's development.[1]

French in art

Within academic arts, French is the main language used. Academic art discourse had been conducted in French within a five decade period until 2010. Reviews of artwork and art journal articles mostly were published in French, while some newspaper coverage of gallery exhibits was in Arabic. French is the main language of art museums in Morocco. The Oudaya Museum, the national art museum, has object histories only in French, while many object labels are in Arabic and French. Moroccans imagined the audiences of museums and artwork as mostly Francophone. Katarzyna Pieprzak, author of Imagined Museums: Art and Modernity in Postcolonial Morocco, said that the "modernist or academic visual art is a language that was learned in art schools in Europe."[12]

Pieprzak concluded that "the use of French reflects a desire to be heard and to participate in a Western-controlled international art sphere and market" and that "French continues to serve as a lingua franca that unites Moroccan artists not only to Europe but also to Francophone Africa."[12]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Aleya Rouchdy (2002). Language Contact and Language Conflict in Arabic: Variations on a Sociolinguistic Theme. Psychology Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7007-1379-0.
  2. "Morocco." (Archive) CIA World Factbook. Retrieved on 13 October 2012. "French (often the language of business, government, and diplomacy)"
  3. "Bitter Fruit: where Donegal's jobs went." Irish Independent. Saturday January 16, 1999. Retrieved on October 15, 2012. "Behind the locked gates and the sign saying `Interdit au Public' (forbidden to the public) French is the lingua franca in Morocco) I[...]"
  4. 1 2 Aleya Rouchdy (2002). Language Contact and Language Conflict in Arabic: Variations on a Sociolinguistic Theme. Psychology Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-7007-1379-0.
  5. "La Francophonie dans le monde." (Archive) Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. p. 16. Retrieved on 15 October 2012.
  6. 2004 Morocco Population Census
  7. 1 2 3 Moha Ennaji (5 December 2005). Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-387-23980-4.
  8. "Citizen Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media" (6th Edition). Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government. June 2014. p. 31 Retrieved on June 28, 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Moha Ennaji (20 January 2005). Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-387-23979-8.
  10. Stevens, Paul B. "Language Attitudes among Arabic-French Bilinguals in Morocco." (book review) Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 1985 4:73. p. 73-76. DOI: 10.1177/0261927X8500400107. p. 73.
  11. Moha Ennaji (5 December 2005). Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 162–163. ISBN 978-0-387-23980-4.
  12. 1 2 Pieprzak, Katarzyna. Imagined Museums: Art and Modernity in Postcolonial Morocco. University of Minnesota Press, 2010. xxvii (Introduction). Retrieved from Google Books on October 15, 2012. ISBN 0816665184, 9780816665181.
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