Moroccans speak many different languages however the lingua franca is Darija, a dialect of Arabic. It’s comparable to West African creole; a combination of several different languages (predominantly Arabic, French, Spanish and Berber). In fact it’s such a blend of languages that most Arabic speakers outside of Algeria and Tunisia can’t even understand Moroccan! If you’re looking to use Arabic outside of these three countries I would not recommend learning Darija. However if you’ve got a love for Morocco, have Moroccan in-laws or simply want a challenge by all means give Darija a shot!
Here are some sites to get you started;
I recently found learnissimo and think it’s pretty awesome – as an ESL teacher in the past I think this is a good beginner resource. It shows the words in English, then pronounces them in darija, shows you the word in darija and an action to go with it. (It has lots of other languages too if you want to brush up on another!) For a small fee you can download the mp3 and print a PDF of the lessons.
Speak Moroccan Arabic – This is a message board-type website that is a good resource as you get going on your Darija journey.
Moroccan Language – Sign up here and get 6 free audio mini-lessons on Darija
The Peace Corp Manual on Moroccan Arabic – pretty good (and free!) book that will get you conversational
Moroccan Arabic Vocabulary – is a great blog that sadly is no longer being updated but has tons of vocab with great variations and intricacies of each word.
If you’re a real language lover you might like this great chart that shows the specific pronunciations of each letter as written and specific to Moroccan Arabic (not for beginners!)
For those people who are interested in learning how to read and write in standard Arabic - Madinah Arabic is a good free resource to get a grasp on the basics. I’ve rarely seen Darija written in Arabic script, instead it’s most often written in Latin script and phonetically spelled out with the use of letters to replace sounds that don’t exist in other languages.
If you prefer books try some of these;
A Basic Course in Moroccan Arabic with MP3 Files – This is one of the most comprehensive texts compiled. It was created in the 70’s and so some words are a little out of date. (Remember darija is the “street” language so just like we don’t say “groovy” now some words are no longer in style in darija). You do get a CD with this book – which is great for audio learners.
Moroccan Arabic: Shnoo the Hell is Going on Hnaa? A Practical Guide to Learning Moroccan Darija. Aside from the funny title I own this book and really do like it. It’s not as in depth as the basic course, it’s a pretty slim volume actually. However the author does a good job getting down what needs to be learned.
Lonely Planet Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook. Heading to Morocco for a visit? This book will come in handy especially if you find yourself off the beaten path and only speak English. When I met my husband we used this book constantly to communicate when our French faltered!
Travel Talk: Moroccan Arabic. If you’re an audio person this might be a good resource for you. I haven’t personally tried this series but it looks promising!
Also, make sure to check with your local library. Morocco didn’t just become en vogue today – it was a hot spot in the 1970’s and they might have some audio recordings/ books that I haven’t even heard of!
Lastly some great videos;
From Speak Moroccan (another nice website!)
As you continue on your learning path take as many opportunities as you can to be exposed to the language. I’ve learned nearly 100% of the darija I know through conversation. But that’s what works for me. Seek out Moroccan TV shows/clips or movies, listen to the Moroccan news, immerse yourselves in conversations (if you’re lucky enough to have Moroccans around you!) Even if you don’t understand what’s going on you will start to pick up words, phrases and eventually the entire conversation.
If you’ve got more Darija learning sites, books, audio or video clips please email me so that I can add them!