A Fearless Guide to Food and Travel

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Moroccan Arabic Vocabulary – is a great blog that sadly is no longer being updated but has tons of vocab with great variations and intricacies of each word.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  It was created in the 70’s and so some words are a little out of date.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!)

Weather Phrases in Moroccan Arabic

Count from 1-10 in Darija

Colors List in Darija

How to Greet People in Darija

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!

  • Ann Pollak

    May 4, 2015 #1 Author

    I am interested if you know of any book that I can give to a Moroccan woman who has just moved to London and needs to learn English. Suggestions welcome. Many thanks. Ann


    • Amanda Mouttaki

      May 22, 2015 #2 Author

      I would probably just use ESL English books that start from the beginning. There are so few good Moroccan Arabic resource that it might just be more confusing.


  • Teresa

    April 16, 2015 #3 Author

    Amazing website Amanda!
    How do you say how did you sleep? when asking someone after they wake up in the morning


    • Amanda Mouttaki

      April 17, 2015 #4 Author

      Hi Teresa — you could say – Nas Mzien?


      • Jalila

        April 21, 2015 #5 Author

        You can also say: wach na’asti mezyan?


  • K

    October 22, 2014 #6 Author

    I speak french fairly well and have no problem getting around in French speaking countries. Will I be able to get by in Fez? Or should I bring a phrase book just to be safe?


  • eternitysojourner

    August 12, 2014 #8 Author

    Very helpful resources! Thanks!


  • maryam

    July 9, 2014 #9 Author

    Can you translate to following please for female and male :

    – what is your name (for M/F) ?
    – where are you from (for M/F)?
    – how old is your son/daughter ?
    – how did you learn Arabic/English ?
    – Did you visit Morocco yet ?
    – when are you going to Morocco ?
    – when are you coming back to Ireland ?
    – how long have you been Muslim ?
    – Sorry I don’t understand what you said
    – I understand what you said
    – I don’t know
    – I know
    – please for give me
    – how are you and how was your day at work
    – welcome to my home anytime
    – it was nice to meet you please come to my home
    – would you like more tea/water/juice
    – please eat
    – take your time
    – can you I get you anything
    – what are you/ ye talking about
    – did you talk to Rachida recently
    – I am travelling to Morocco in October
    – how is your fasting
    – what time did you sleep
    – what time did you wake up
    – good morning my love
    – may Allah reward you
    – how is your mum and father
    – how is your family
    – do you miss Morocco
    – can I talk to my mum/ friend/sister
    – can I go to my sister/family house
    – would you like to go shopping today
    – I want to buy you a gift
    – what did you say
    – I don’t mind
    – no worries its ok
    – please help me


  • L.

    December 22, 2011 #13 Author

    Is learnissimo free?


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