Tips and tricks to learn Moroccan Arabic

 

This article explains how to learn Moroccan Arabic in record time and contains all the best websites and resources to learn the Moroccan language. It contains useful information on how to learn and memorize new words quickly and also demonstrates language learning techniques that can be applied to learning virtually any language.

 

complete method to learning Moroccan arabic - learn moroccan arabic tips and tricks - learn arabic by yourself - journal of nomads

 

Learning languages has been my passion ever since I started traveling around the world ten years ago. I am currently learning my seventh language and I don’t plan on stopping learning new ones any time soon.

 

Learning Derija Moroccan Arabic - working on laptop in Morocco - Digital Nomad - Journal of Nomads

 

Some guys are good at sports, others have a flair for business, I learn languages faster than anyone I know.

 

I often see articles passing by online with catchy titles such as ”10 Tips To Learn Any Language From An Expert” or ”How do you learn a new language fast?” Although most of these articles are good and hold a lot of truths, they generally sell the idea that one has to study very hard and grind every day to learn a language in a short amount of time.

 

This is true but only if you don’t know where to start and what to learn. It’s important to cut the chase and learn only what is useful in a short and manageable amount of time.

 

This article is written with the goal of giving you a quick grasp of the Moroccan Arabic that is spoken all over Morocco.

 

I have lived and traveled around Morocco for a bit more than a year and a half and at first, it was a bit hard for me to communicate with people.

 

I assumed that everyone there spoke and understood classical Arabic but I was so wrong. I ended up spending a lot of time studying sentences that didn’t help me understand what people were saying.

 

Making friends in Morocco - speaking Moroccan Arabic - Journal of Nomads

 

Moroccan Arabic is actually similar to Creole in the sense that it’s a mix of many different languages ( mostly Arabic, French, Berber and Spanish). It’s so different from other dialects of Arabic that speakers from Saudi Arabia or Lebanon, for example, don’t understand it.

 

When I first arrived in Morocco, it seemed to me like people were always talking so fast and I had no idea where one word would end and where the next one would start. My first visit to the country eventually turned into a year of living and traveling there and I finally was able to learn the language.

 

Making friends in Morocco while speaking the local language of Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

Moroccan Arabic is a language that presented a whole new exciting challenge to my mind. I know I sound like a total language nerd now but let me tell you that learning this dialect was and still is one of the most exciting undertakings of my life.

 

I now have a broader understanding of the culture and I can have long lengthy conversations with Moroccans on topics ranging from sports to politics.

 

I wrote this guide with the intention of giving you the same set of techniques and methods I used to learn the language myself. I hope this article helps you reach a high level of proficiency in Moroccan Arabic and that it will help you enjoy the country as much as I did.

 

Moroccan kids playing in the streets - people of Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

Speaking Arabic can also help you get better pictures of people

read: Portraits of Morocco – How to Photograph People in Morocco

 

1. Is it hard to learn the Moroccan dialect of Arabic?

 

Let me answer that question by answering another question first.- Is it hard to learn Arabic?

 

If you look for this answer online you’ll find people saying that it’s one of the three hardest languages to learn in the world. They’ll usually explain their reasoning by saying that Arabic contains sounds that are very hard to pronounce by non-native speakers. I’m here to dispel that myth.

 

Moroccan Street Sign - Moroccan Arabic

 

Learning Arabic is not harder than learning any other language. Of course, it contains sounds that are different but with a bit of practice and imitation skills, you’ll quickly be able to reproduce them and sound like a native speaker yourself.

 

It’s also important to realize that as daunting as learning Arabic sounds, the vocabulary of this speech is no more complex than the vocabulary of any other modern language. Learning Arabic is simply not as hard as you may think.

 

Now let’s get back to the original question- Is it hard to learn Moroccan Arabic or Derija as its colloquially called?

 

Well, the answer is yes and no but not for the reasons you may think. Let me explain: when people think about the Arabic language they often think it’s one language but it’s, in reality, a huge amount of dialects that are as different as French and Italian for example.

 

The difficulty in learning Moroccan Arabic stems from the fact that there is only a small amount of books or methods dedicated to that particular dialect. It’s hard to find good quality material to help you learn the colloquial language spoken in Morocco.

 

Learning Moroccan Arabic per se isn’t hard. Finding good books, videos or apps to learn it is. Luckily I’ve done that work for you already. I’m including at the end of this guide a list of the best books, apps, websites and YouTube channels to learn Moroccan Arabic.

 

Street photography in Morocco - man with chariot - Journal of Nomads

 

 

2. How long does it take to learn Moroccan Arabic?

 

This will depend on whether you are in Morocco or not while studying Arabic. Assuming you are not already in the country and you want to start studying by yourself, it can take anywhere between a year to 3 years to reach a native speaker’s level of fluency.

 

If you are traveling in Morocco and you follow my method, I can guarantee it’s possible to speak Moroccan Arabic fluently within 3 to 4 months if you apply the tips and tricks I show in this guide.

 

Here are a few factors that will influence how long it takes you to learn Moroccan Arabic:

 

  • Your learning methods

We live in an era where learning a new language is not limited to a classroom setting. Although learning in a classroom environment had a lot of value 10 years ago, nowadays it’s far from being the most optimal way to learn a new language.

 

Reading written Arabic material on language learning websites like LingQ or listening to the radio in Moroccan Arabic on onlineradiobox can really speed up your learning process.

 

It’s also a good idea to watch Moroccan TV series on Youtube ( I’ll give you some awesome YouTube channels for this later in the article). A great method I would also recommend is to practice with a native speaker of Moroccan Arabic online at Italki.

 

What still remains the best learning method, in my opinion, is to travel to Morocco and completely immerse yourself in an environment where everyone speaks Moroccan Arabic while self-studying online (I’ll give you a detailed list of websites and apps you can use to do this).

 

At a fruit and vegetable market in Essaouira, Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

  • The time you’ll dedicate to learning

Let’s face it, learning Moroccan Arabic will take time. However, let me share a little secret with you.

 

Memory works in a very funny way. Dedicating half an hour to studying Arabic every day for a week is much more effective than cramming 5-6 hours of intense studying on the weekend. Fluency comes from constant use. Newbies language learners often try to do big, deep dives on the weekends, but that’s too infrequent.

 

Regular repetition of words and sentences on a daily basis even if it’s only done during a short time span will be much more effective than trying to cram tons of new words at once in your brain.

 

I found from personal experience that studying Moroccan Arabic during two blocks of half an hour every day combined with a total immersion in the country is what worked best.

 

  • Your attitude and motivation

When it comes to learning languages, my approach is always the same; I get my hands on fun learning material that will keep me motivated and entertained while I study the language. If the material I use wouldn’t be fun, I would quickly lose motivation and focus.

 

One way I found was quite effective to stay motivated while studying Arabic was to watch Moroccan movies on YouTube with English subtitles. This is a fun and relaxing way to study the language and can be done easily providing you have an internet connection.

 

I listen to how the words are pronounced, get to see them used in very particular situations and I can them write them down immediately to review them later.

 

Learning Moroccan Arabic can be compared to taking care of your pet: you have to feed it, cuddle it, and take it out for a walk every once in a while. In the end, YOU will be the one to decide how quickly you become fluent in Arabic and how good your skills remain.

 

Street photography Morocco - Morocco women talking - people of Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

 

3. How to learn and memorize Arabic words quickly

 

Over the last 11 years, I have learned how to speak 7 different languages while traveling around the world. While learning these different languages, I tried and tested various learning methods.

 

I discovered that the speed at which I could learn a new language was determined by only one thing. Memory. But more specifically, how long does it take for a word to be transferred from my short term memory to my long term memory.

 

Here is the set of techniques that I used specifically with Moroccan Arabic words to learn and remember them very easily.

 

1. Find good audio material

I would advise typing Moroccan Arabic movies with English subtitles on YouTube and start looking for good movies there. The key is to find a movie that has good audio quality and English subtitles.

 

You could also use the video lessons on The armchair Arabist website or listen to the Audio lessons provided with A Basic Course in Moroccan Arabic.

 

2. Write down the new words and sentences as you hear them

I would advise pausing the video or audio lesson that you’re listening to and writing down the new sentence or word the way you hear it. For example, I might be watching a Moroccan movie and while looking at the subtitles I see that the hero of the story just asked ”where is the toilet?”.

 

What I will do at that moment is listen to what he is saying exactly in Moroccan Arabic which sounds like ”Al toilet faynn? And I will write down this expression together with the English translation.

 

3. Record yourself reading your notes

After I’ve written down the new words or expressions that I heard in the movie or audio lesson, I will record myself reading them. I usually record myself with my phone or on my laptop.

 

4. Listen to your own voice speaking the new words

This is probably the most important part of my memorization technique. I suggest building a library of recorded content that you can then listen to for half an hour every day.

 

5. Restart the process

I dedicate about half an hour every day to listen to audio material or watch videos while writing down the words and building a library of recorded content. I will then spend another 30 minutes later in the day to listen to myself reading all those new Moroccan Arabic expressions.

 

I do this every day and eventually, I don’t have to write down the words or expressions I hear anymore because I understand them perfectly.

 

Studying map - talking with Moroccan people - hitchhiking in Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

 

4. List of useful Moroccan Arabic words and short expressions

 

Before going to any country, it is always important to know some basic words and expressions that will help you get by and ask people for help and assistance if needed so I included 10 Derija expressions in this guide that will help you get around in the country.

 

The following expressions are specifically used to ask people for help and assistance or break the ice at the beginning of a conversation.

 

Afak: “Afak” is the Derija word to say please. You can use it after asking for something. One way I used this word when I first arrived in Morocco was to simply point at fruits or vegetables and say ”heda afak”. This translates as ”this, please” and although by itself it doesn’t mean much, believe me, it goes a long way.

 

Fayn: “Fayn” is the word for where. You can use it to ask for the toilets- “Fayn al toilet afak?” – Where is the bathroom, please? “Fayn al cafe afak?” – Where is the cafe, please? You could also ask for the location of Taxis using this word.

 

Shukran: This is the word to say thank you. You can use it after the waiter brings your food or after someone points you in the direction of the toilets or the market. Moroccans greatly value when foreigners speak their language and using this expression will definitely make them smile.

 

Ech Hal or Bech Hal: This is the expression to use to say “How much” when you want to buy something. You can say “Ech Hal heda?” or Bech Hal while pointing at some vegetables at the market. This literally means – how much is this?

 

Smeetee: “Smeetee” literally means “My name is…” So when meeting someone you could say smeetee and then follow by saying your name.

 

Shno smeetek?: After introducing yourself, the best thing to do is to ask people what their name is. Shno smeetek? translates as “What is your name?”

 

Sabah al Khayr: This means Good morning.

 

La bass?: This is an expression used to ask people how they are while saying hi at the same time.

 

Beslama: This means Goodbye.

 

Anta tahdar al engleezeeya?: This translates as “Do you speak English?”

 

Berber man making tea in the Altas Mountains near Tinerhir Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

 

5. List of useful Moroccan Arabic sentences

 

The following sentences will help you in all kinds of everyday situations. They were taken from the Lonely Planet Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook. More similar sentences can be found within the pages of this super useful book.

 

Moroccan Arabic sentences for finding accommodation

 

Fayn kainn shee hotel?: where’s a hotel?

 

Kanqelleb eala shee hotel karib: I’m looking for a hotel nearby.

 

ashno huwa lunwan?: What’s the address?

 

kteb lunwan afak: Please write down the address.

 

Moroccan Arabic sentences for checking in at a hotel

 

wash kainn shee beet khawiya?: Is there a room available?

 

Ech Hal al tammann dyal beet?: How much is the room?

 

Breet shee beet dyal waHed: I want a room for one.

 

Breet shee beet dyal Jouj: I want a room for two.

 

wash yemkenlee nchouff al beet?: Can I see the room?

 

ma-ajubneesh hed al beet: I don’t like that room.

 

had al beet mezyana: This room is good.

 

Useful Moroccan Arabic sentences for eating out at a restaurant

 

Makan-hakul al-hem: I don’t eat meat

 

Wash kainn shee haja beela l-hem?: Do you have anything without meat?

 

Afak jeeblee al menu: Please bring me the menu.

 

Hada b-nin: This is delicious.

 

Moroccan Arabic sentences for traveling with a family

 

Ana m-safer ma-a la-eela dyalee: I’m traveling with my family.

 

wash kainn tsheelat dyal draree sRharr?: Are there facilities for babies?

 

Street photography Morocco - man riding donkey in Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

 

6. The top 10 Moroccan Arabic verbs and their conjugation for daily use

 

to haveto wantto look forto eatto do
I have – ayndee
you have – ayndek
he has – ayndoo
she has – aynda
we have – ayndana
you have (plural) – ayndekoom
they have – ayndoom
I want breet
you want breetee
he wants – braa
she wants braat
we want  breena
you want (plural) breetoo
they want- brow
I’m looking for – kanqelleb
you’re looking for – katqelleb
he’s looking for – kayqelleb
she’s looking for – katqelleb
we’re looking for – kanqelleboo
you’re looking for (plural) – katkelleboo
they’re looking for – kaykelleboo
I’m eating – kanakool
you’re eating – katakool
he’s eating – keetakool
she’s eating – katakool
we’re eating – kanakloo
you’re eating (plural) – katakloo
they’re eating – keeyakloo
I’m doing – Kandir
you’re doing – katdir
he’s doing – kidir
she’s doing – katdir
we’re doing – kandiroo
you’re doing (plural) – katdiroo
they’re doing – kidiroo

 

 

 

7. Best books to learn Moroccan Arabic

 

The first book I would recommend to learn Moroccan Arabic is the Lonely Planet Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook. It is packed with all the essential words and phrases you will need on your trip to Morocco and will help you in every situation — from finding a hotel room to ordering tajine or joining the local festivities, this book will cover almost every situation you could imagine.

 

What is so great about this pocket-sized book is that it covers very practical-every day situations. It’s a book that will help you get around the country and that will give you practical sentences.

 

Here are a few more of the books I would recommend you get your hands on to learn Moroccan Arabic:

 

A Basic Course in Moroccan Arabic

This book is as its name says a basic course for people with no previous exposure to Moroccan Arabic. The mp3 files are a bit dated but the accent is the Moroccan Arabic one, so you’ll be able to hear exactly how the words are pronounced.

 

An introduction to Moroccan Arabic

This first book in a five-part work is a great introduction to Moroccan Arabic. It introduces key vocabulary and very important words used in everyday conversations.

 

Advanced Moroccan Arabic

This book is also written by the same author as An introduction to Moroccan Arabic and it follows upon the words and expressions presented in the first book. Although the title of this book says ”Advanced”, it’s still fairly approachable even for people who never studied Moroccan Arabic previously.

 

One of the major selling points of this book is that the teaching method revolves around everyday conversations giving you very practical vocabulary.

 

Moroccan Arabic verb dictionary

If you ever happen to travel in Morocco without a good internet connection on your phone to check google translate, this pocket dictionary will be super useful. It contains over 3500 main English verb entries and expressions with their corresponding up-to-date Moroccan Arabic verbs.

 

Sub-entries under each main verb include adjectives, adverbs, derivatives of the main verb, and nouns associated with the main verb entry. For each verb, there is a sentence to help clarify the context for accurate usage.

 

Moroccan Arabic

This is another one of my favorite books to learn Moroccan Arabic. Although it’s not for the casual tourist, It’s an excellent review for any student of Moroccan Arabic who already has some proficiency but needs to brush up on grammar and other language aspects before a trip to Morocco. It’s written very clearly and a great deal of humor can be found in the sentences that are presented.

 

Dictionary of Moroccan Arabic

This is another useful pocket dictionary to carry around Morocco. While the one previously cited focuses on Moroccan verbs, this one presents the core vocabulary of everyday life in Morocco―from the kitchen to the mosque and from the hardware store to the natural world of plants and animals.

 

Morocco street photography - men in Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

 

8. Best free online resources to learn Moroccan Arabic

 

During the last five years, I have been improving my Moroccan Arabic level and adding new words to my vocabulary on a daily basis. I did so by regularly studying online with various free websites. Here is a list of the ones I find the most useful for beginners and intermediate learners:

 

loecsen

This website is pretty useful for visual learners. It contains audio footage that accompanies images of the words and expressions. The vocabulary is separated by themes such as family, numbers, and colors.

 

Speak Moroccan Arabic

This used to be my favorite website to learn Moroccan Arabic when I just started studying the language. I still visit it from time to time if I forgot a word or an expression. All the vocabulary and sentences are divided into units that become increasingly more difficult.

 

The content and the lessons on this website are very well organized and divided. It’s the perfect place to start for people who want easily manageable lists of vocabulary and learning objectives.

 

The armchair Arabist

This website is a gem and really awesome for more advanced learners. It presents videos were native speakers talk about everyday life subjects. The videos are then broken down into parts and all the vocabulary is explained.

 

Lang Media

This website is not only dedicated to Moroccan Arabic but also provides material to learn the Algerian and the Tunisian dialects. It contains videos in which native speakers talk about a wide variety of everyday topics. The videos are transcribed and translated.

 

People of Morocco - shepherds in Morocco - Journal of Nomads

 

 

9. Best websites to practice Moroccan Arabic with native speakers

 

Another trick that greatly helped and sped up my learning process was to practice online with native speakers on language learning websites. These websites work by connecting you with someone over a text, audio, and/or video service to facilitate communication. Usually, you’ll simply contact someone over a text chat or email first, and then you can both decide the best way to continue talking.

 

The ones I have used to learn Moroccan Arabic are Italki, Busuu, and Verbling. While a lot of language learning websites will offer classical Arabic, these are the only three websites I found where you can practice Moroccan Arabic with a native speaker.

 

Morocco Street photography - Tangier Old medina - Journal of Nomads

 

 

10. Best YouTube channels to learn Moroccan Arabic

 

I’m a huge fan of YouTube! Not only because we have our own YouTube channel where we feature our adventures around the world but also because it’s such a useful tool to learn languages. I love to watch Moroccan TV series on YouTube to hear all kinds of new expressions.

 

I would say that watching Moroccan Arabic YouTube channels is by far the most enjoyable way to learn the language. The series I watch are really enjoyable, so I never procrastinate while watching them. Some of the channels I recommend are really informative, so you’ll get some knowledge about the language and the culture at the same time.

 

Watching videos on YouTube also takes less effort than studying with books. I usually take notes of the new words and expressions I hear while watching them.

 

Here are a few of the channels I recommend:

 

Al Aoula TV

This is the YouTube channel of a very famous TV station in Morocco. What is really awesome is that this channel has everything from Talk shows and news reports to drama films and comedies. I keep watching the Drama series because they use relatively easy vocabulary and everyday words.

 

Ramadan Al Aoula TV

This channel covers all the drama series that are broadcasted on Al Aoula TV during Ramadan. If you want to follow the ordeals of endearing characters while polishing your Derija vocabulary, be sure to check out this great YouTube channel.

 

Medi 1

If you have been learning Moroccan Arabic for a while and would like to listen to expressions that are closer to classical Arabic, have a look at this channel. It features news report from all around Morocco.

 

MasterChef Maroc

Morocco has some of the best food in the world so it’s no surprise that the country would have some awesome competitive culinary TV shows. The participants of this show travel to destinations all over Morocco while trying to cook to perfection the recipes they’re challenged with.

 

I love this channel because it’s a great way to learn about Moroccan food and culture at the same time. I heard about this YouTube channel for the first time on FluentU, a website that has tons of awesome tips and tricks to learn all the dialects of Arabic.

 

How to learn Derija, Moroccan Arabic - Journal of Nomads

 

I hope this article helps your language learning journey. Learning Arabic has been such a fun challenge and I’m sure you will enjoy it too. Have you learned this language or are you studying it at the moment? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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*This article contains some affiliate links. If you book a hotel/hostel or purchase one of the recommended products through our website, we’ll receive a small commission at no extra costs for you. This way you’re helping us writing more informative and awesome guides like this. Thank you!

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – MOROCCO TRAVEL TIPS:

  • A few travel tips for Morocco:

      23 Travel Tips for Morocco – Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

 

  • Planning to travel to Morocco during Ramadan? Read this first:

      How is it to travel to Morocco during Ramadan?

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOROCCO TRAVEL RESOURCES:

 

 

 

 

Follow Niko - Journal of Nomads:
I'm a vagabond and a lover of wild untouched nature. I travel around the world in pursuit of beautiful inspiring landscapes and fascinating cultures. I'm always trying to learn and master the languages of the places I visit.I've been bitten by the travel bug eleven years ago and haven't stopped traveling since.

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