Can you survive living in Morocco with only English? Yes, you can, if you have local friends who are ready to help you. Yet, If you really want to immerse yourself in the Moroccan life, you should learn the Moroccan Arabic (known as Darija). Or, like me, try to master French.
After my first visit to Morocco, I set myself a task to learn Darija. The challenge of learning the script was a tough one, not mentioning writing and reading right-to-left. Soon, I realised to master French will take me less time as I already had some background.
In Morocco, French is a second language in administration, banking, commerce, education and industry. Most Moroccans learn French at school. If you are only a tourist, you will manage with English. Many Moroccans, especially in touristic places, speak English.
You can live in Morocco without speaking French. However, your employment and life administration options will be very limited. Most employers need French and English knowledge, all contracts and even ads on popular websites will be in French.
If you want to be an independent expat in Morocco, you must speak at least intermediate French. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of time on translations which often leads to misinterpretations.
My story of learning French is long and complicated. It started at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, where I studied Art history. Imagine, after 2 years of studying French, I only knew how to say “Bonjour”. I regret being lazy, but the teachers were so boring. Of course, the lack of motivation was an important factor.
Then, some years ago I attended a French group course in Vilnius, Lithuania. Again, after 3 months of studies, I only learned how to say “au revoir”. Besides, I had private French classes in Amsterdam, the teacher was great, but because of my intense travels, the classes were too irregular.
So, folks, I lost a hope to master French. This July, I decided to give the last try and subscribed for an intense summer course in the same L’Institut Français in Marrakech. The 30 hours course cost only 950 Dh (around 90 eur) and guess what – after finishing it I understand and can speak basic French!
The key to success was the amazing and experienced teacher, Mr Ait Baaya, forcing us to speak from the very first day. We almost didn’t study grammar, it came into our heads. His philosophical conversations about learning French and stories about Morocco were incredible. He made me believe that good and devoted teachers still exist.
Now, I am so happy being able to make an appointment with the doctor, hairdresser, accountant and my only Darija and French-speaking drivers.
Of course, it is not enough to attend a course to master French. You need to practise daily and talk talk talk… My next step is to continue the French course and practise as much as possible. Don’t give up – if I can do it, everyone can do it!
Updated 2019 March. I am learning Moroccan Arabic – Darija! I have an amazing private teacher Hajar and hope slowly to master this beautiful language!