North Africa

The languages of North Africa fall into two groups, Arabic and Berber.

Arabic is spoken throughout the Middle East and across North Africa, but the variety of Arabic spoken differs from one country to the next, and even from one region to another within the same country. There are over 24 major Arabic dialects. They are quite different from each other, and are best thought of as different languages, rather than as dialects.

Language Map (Arabic)

Arabic languages of North Africa


A - Hassaniya  B - Moroccan Arabic C - AlgerianArabic
D - Tunisian Arabic  E - Western Libyan Arabic  F - Eastern Libyan Arabic


In addition to the spoken varieties, there is also a literary variety of Arabic referred to as Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). Almost all printed materials in the Arab World – books, newspapers, magazines, official documents, and even reading materials for small children – are in MSA. But no one speaks MSA as their mother tongue, and in fact no one ever uses it on the street. You’ll only hear it used orally for news broadcasts, or sermons in mosques, or in other formal situations.


Berber is the name given by Europeans to the language of the Amazigh peoples, the original inhabitants of much of North Africa. The languages are more properly referred to as Tamazight.

Many millions of people have a Berber language as their mother tongue, mainly in Morocco and Algeria, but also in Libya, and a few places in Tunisia and Egypt.

Language map (Berber)