Can you survive living in Morocco with only English? I’ve been asked this question many times and my answer is positive. However, 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. However, 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 used as a second language in administration, banking, commerce, education and industry and most Moroccans learn French at school. If you are only a tourist, you will manage with English; many Moroccans, especially in the 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 require French and English knowledge, all contracts and even ads on the popular websites will be in French. In my opinion, 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, lack of motivation was an important factor.
Then, some years ago I attended a French a group course in Vilnius, Lithuania. Again, after 3 months of studies, I only learned how to say “au revoir”. In addition, 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 naturally. Even more, his philosophical conversations about the best ways to learn French and stories about Moroccan traditions made me believe that good and devoted teachers still exist.
Of course, it is not enough to attend a course to master French. You need to practise daily and, most important, you need to 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!