french institut language school morocco

How much French do you need to survive in Morocco?

Can you survive living in Morocco with only English? Yes, you can, if you have local friends ready to help you. Yet, If you want to immerse yourself in Moroccan life, you should learn Moroccan Arabic (known as Darija). Or, like me, try to master French.

French is one of the most used languages in Morocco, next to the official ones standard Arabic and Tamazight. However, these official languages are rarely spoken, and almost everyone speaks the Moroccan Arabic dialect called Darija. French is a colonial legacy used as a second language in administration, banking, commerce, education and industry. However, English is also a popular language, and Many Moroccans speak English, especially in tourist cities.

After my first visit to Morocco, I set myself a task to learn Darija. The challenge of learning the script was tough, not to mention writing and reading right-to-left. Soon, I realised to master French would take me less time as I already had some background.

You can live in Morocco without speaking French. However, your employment and life administration options will be minimal. Most employers need French and English knowledge; all contracts and ads on popular websites will be in French.

To be an independent expat in Morocco, you must speak intermediate French. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of time on translations, which often leads to misinterpretations.

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My story of learning French is long and complicated. It started at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, where I studied Art history. 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. But, again, after 3 months of studies, I only learned how to say “au revoir”. Besides, I had private French classes in Amsterdam, and the teacher was great, but because of my intense travels, the classes were too irregular.

My French group at the L’Institut Français du Maroc.

Honestly, I lost hope of mastering French. Then, in July 2019, 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 euro) and guess what – after finishing it I understand and can speak basic French!

institut francais

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 excellent 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… So my next step is to continue the French course and practise as much as possible.

à bientôt!

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2 Comments

  1. Hi there, thanks so much for your post. I am interested in learning Arabic (maybe French first, per your experience) in Morocco and am wondering about 1. Can a speaker of Standard Arabic Darija? 2.) in your opinion can I safely live in Morocco as a blonde, American female? Is there a lot of anti-American sentiment? I’d love your opinion from inside the country. Thanks in advance for your thoughts. -Sarah

    1. Darija dialect is different than stanadrt Arabic, so if you want to live in Morocco, learn Darija dialect. But Darija you cannot use in other Arabic countries, so you need first to think why you want to learn the language.