What Language Is Spoken In Algeria?

Asma Wahba

Author

Asma Wahba

Arabic is the main language spoken in Algeria, but many people are surprised to discover that both Arabic and Berber (Tamazight) are the country’s official languages. Algeria has a rich linguistic history stretching all the way back to Carthage, which apart from some place names has disappeared from modern-day Algeria. The Arabic dialect that people speak in Algeria is very close to Moroccan and somewhat similar to Tunisian, but differs greatly from those in other Arabic-speaking countries.

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What language is spoken in Algeria?

Arabic (Algerian Dialect and Modern Standard Arabic)

Algerian Arabic is the dominant spoken language of Algeria. This is a colloquial dialect that is very similar to Moroccan Arabic and somewhat similar to Tunisian. All these spoken varieties are also referred to as Maghrebi Arabic.

It’s important to note that the official Arabic of Algeria is actually Modern Standard Arabic, not spoken Algerian. MSA is the literary language that is derived from its ancestor, Classical Arabic (the language of the Quran). Although the entire country is able to read, write and speak MSA, it is not used in day-to-day spoken discourse outside of professional contexts.

Algerian Arabic is heavily influenced not only by MSA, but also Berber, French, Spanish, Latin and English.

Berber (Tamazight)

Berber (Amazigh) refers to a cluster of languages or dialects that have been spoken continuously in Algeria and other parts of North Africa since antiquity (going right back to Numidia pre-Carthage/Phoenician era). In 2002, Berber was finally recognized as an official Algerian language along with Arabic.

Kabyle is the most dominant Berber language in Algeria (approx. 5 million speakers), followed by Chawi (2 million+ speakers), Mozabite (150k speakers) and numerous other smaller Berber languages and dialects.

Berber is officially written using Tifinagh, an abjad that is derived from its ancient ancestor.

French

Algeria is one of the largest French-speaking countries in the world outside of France.

Due to its colonial past, Algeria is still heavily influenced by French language and culture, and most people in the country speak it. In fact, it’s considered the lingua franca of Algeria.

Over a third of all Algerians a literate in French, and the Algerian Arabic vernacular is often mixed up with French words and expressions.

Other languages in Algeria

Many people who wonder what language is spoken in Algeria are surprised to learn that people in some regions speak languages other than Algerian Arabic or Berber.

Korandje, a Nilo-Saharan language and member of the Songhay group of languages, is also spoken in parts of Algeria. Most notably, one of the only towns in Algeria where Korandje is spoken is Tabelbala and some Niger border areas.

Some other minority languages in Algeria include English and Algerian Sign Language.


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