Arabic students living in Morocco for any length of time will quickly discover that Moroccan Arabic is the real key to daily communication. While most Moroccans can understand Modern Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic (or Darija) is more commonly used in daily life, and students will encounter the dialect on the streets, in the markets, and with their host families. Learning Darija with Qalam wa Lawh provides students with a special bond with Moroccan people and Moroccan culture, allowing students from all over the world to gain incredible insight into Moroccan life.
What is Darija?
Moroccan Arabic, also known as Darija, is the dialect of Arabic spoken in Morocco. It is very similar to the dialects spoken in Algeria, Mauritania, and Tunisia, but differs greatly from dialects spoken further east, in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and the Gulf countries.
Because Morocco has been ruled by many different governments and empires over time - including its colonization by the French and Spanish in the twentieth century – Darija has mixed influences. While its base is Arabic, Darija contains Amazigh (the native “Berber” languages), French, and Spanish. Basic phrases like thank you, hello, how are you? are the same as their native Arabic roots. But the Darija word for cheese, for example, is fromage - like French. And the Darija word for wheel is rueda, like Spanish.
Learn some Darija phrases
Some words and phrases in Darija are the same as Modern Standard Arabic:
However, other phrases differ greatly from MSA:
Benefits of Studying Moroccan Arabic
While there are many benefits to learning Modern Standard Arabic, the benefits of learning the Moroccan Arabic dialect are more communication-based. When learning Moroccan Arabic, students find that they are able to practice both inside and outside the classroom – with their host families, taxi drivers and vendors, and all Moroccans they meet. Students can make friends more easily and understand conversations with their friends and host families without difficulty.
With their new Darija dialect, students can also buy things from stores and markets and practice bargaining with local merchants. Speaking the local language makes traveling much easier and can hopefully help students avoid tourist traps and unnecessary payments in the more touristy cities of Casblanca, Fes, and Marrakech.
Students who study Moroccan Arabic can also participate in Qalam’s local Rabat excursions, weekend trips, and academic clubs. These immersion activities are offered to not only provide an opportunity to practice the language the Arabic language, but also to become more acquainted with local Moroccan culture, customs, and sites, strengthening student’s vocabulary through hands-on activities and visits.
Moroccan Arabic Courses
Qalam wa Lawh offers six levels of Moroccan Arabic, all of which are offered on a year-round basis. When students begin their studies with Qalam, they join the course at their level and continue studying as long as they wish. To see a full list of Arabic courses offered at Qalam, visit the Arabic courses page.
Course Highlights and Objectives
In Qalam wa Lawh’s Darija course, students learn Moroccan Arabic with highly-trained native Arabic speakers through conversations, practice texts, and a variety of activities. Teachers focus on ensuring students learn Darija vocabulary for daily life in Morocco, allowing students to use and practice their new Arabic language skills outside of the classroom, as well. The Moroccan Arabic courses aim to provide students the base they need to achieve their goals communicating with Darija speakers at any level of their Moroccan Arabic ability.
Below are the various programs available for Moroccan Arabic courses:
Standard courses are available during Academic Semester programs at a rate of 06 hours per week.
(80 hours for the entire semester.)
Students taking intensive courses take Moroccan Arabic core courses with 20 or 30 hours per week of in-class instruction time. Intensive courses are available year-round in all Intensive Arabic Programs.
For students living and working in Morocco, Darija courses are offered in the evening, as well. Each session lasts 10 weeks, with a total of 3 hours of class time per week (1.5-hour courses on two separate evenings). Evening Darija Courses are available in the Evening Arabic Program.
Core MSA Courses
Qalam wa Lawh teaches students to speak, listen, read and write Moroccan Arabic from the beginner level to the advanced level. The course levels are divided as follows:
CMA 101: CMA Beginner I (80 hours, 4 credits)
At this level, the Center introduces beginner students to a language they have never studied before. This stage includes reading and speaking in Darja about daily life, including topics such as friends, family, work, etc. Listening and writing are also introduced during this primary stage, and students are encouraged to identify the different cultural phenomena in their new Moroccan environment and compare it to their home country.
CMA 102: CMA Beginner II (80 hours, 4 credits)
At this level, teachers encourage students to read simple texts from a variety of topics. Students learn to speak more easily about social topics of Moroccan culture, as the class focuses on the students’ lexicon and providing them with the vocabulary they need in daily life.
CMA 201: CMA Intermediate I (80 hours, 4 credits)
This course uses spoken and written narratives aimed at listening, writing, reading, speaking and social communication to develop linguistic communication and learn about the varied aspects of Arab culture. By the end of this level, the student should be able to achieve communication in different situations.
CMA 202: CMA Intermediate II (80 hours, 4 credits)
This level aims to improve the students’ communication ability to a level where they can speak the local dialect with ease and understand the methods used to write or read the Moroccan dialect, as well. Students learn to understand texts of medium length and absorb the basic ideas.
CMA 301: CMA Advanced I (80 hours, 4 credits)
At the advanced level, the student become advanced in all communication skills. The student learns to quickly understand conversations about a range of various topics and communicate using the dialect to deal with different situations without problems. Students also practice being able to read complex texts and respond to these texts with clarity.
CMA 303: CMA Advanced II (80 hours, 4 credits)
By the end of this level, students should be able to express their views with confidence and talk about high-concept topics, such as political and cultural subjects and topics related to the media and the press using appropriate vocabulary, demonstrating a level of accuracy and fluidity without problems. This level also includes discussion of advanced listening materials, expressions, vocabulary and syntax of complex sentences.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below, you’ll find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Qalam’s Moroccan Arabic courses.
Should I learn MSA or a dialect?
Both Modern Standard Arabic and an Arabic dialect can be helpful while you’re living in an Arabic-speaking country. However, because MSA is the common language in the Arab world, the advantage of learning MSA is that it can be useful in many countries. Learning MSA would also allow you to read or watch the news in any Arabic-speaking country, as well, and anyone interested in a career in journalism or diplomacy would be better off learning MSA. You can learn more about MSA classes at Qalam by visiting the Modern Standard Arabic page.
If you plan to live in an Arabic-speaking country for an extended amount of time, though, it might be useful to learn the dialect of that country, too.
If I want to learn both MSA and a dialect, which one should
I start with?
We generally recommend students to start with Modern Standard Arabic because MSA provides a base upon which other dialects of Arabic can be built. If you would like to switch to Moroccan Arabic after some time with MSA, we recommend waiting until at least the Intermediate level to do so.
However, every students’ situation is different. Some students prefer to focus on the communicative aspects of Moroccan Arabic before they learn MSA. Qalam wa Lawh is happy to advise you with this decision. Feel free to contact us at your convenience.
Listen to Darija!
Not sure if you're interested in learning Moroccan Arabic, or curious about what it sounds like?
Take a look at this video of former Qalam student Addie Block speaking incredible Darija!