Morocco is a location near the top of many people’s bucket list. It's also one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, making it an ideal destination for Arabic learners to get a full immersion experience.
Striking a balance between occidental and oriental, most visitors find visiting an experience in the familiar and new. Geographically Morocco is on the northwestern coast of Africa, and fewer than 10 miles from Europe. It has a very similar climate and geographical terrain as the U.S. state of California.
Morocco provides a unique opportunity to not only learn a new language but have a complete cultural experience. The Moroccan people are very welcoming, patient, and eager to have non-Arabic speakers learn their language. Whether interested in learning the Moroccan dialect or Classical Arabic, there are numerous opportunities for every budget, length of stay, and proficiency level.
There are many language programs in Morocco targeting tourists and long-term visitors. There also are language courses in Darija, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic and Fusha, classical standard Arabic.
Darija is a verbal language, and is not traditionally written. Conversely Fusha is the written standard of Arabic. Many Arabic speakers outside of North Africa do not understand Darija so it is important to know what your goals for learning are.
If you hope to read, write, and use Arabic outside of North Africa, a Fusha program is the best choice.
These are the easiest and most plentiful programs to find. Group size can range from a few (3-4) to 15+ people. For someone who enjoys having others around them learning the language, to study with etc. this may be the best choice. Courses range from 1 week to several years.
Moroccan higher education (university) is taught in French. There are universities in the United States that offer study abroad in Morocco programs with a language component. These courses are completed at language schools and not traditional universities. One example is an intensive language program offered at Al Alhawayn Univeristy in Ifrane, Morocco.
Prefer one-to-one learning? There are many Moroccan teachers and individuals who offer private tutoring. Many people choose to have tutoring in addition to attend group courses. Length of tutoring is at the discretion of the tutee.
For the student who wants the full Moroccan experience a homestay program offers the chance to live with a Moroccan family. For the younger student or someone uncomfortable navigating housing and the demands of daily life this option allows them the chance to experience Morocco without worrying about these details.
Conversely for someone who enjoys their privacy this may not be the best idea. Most homestay programs are several months and up to a year in length.
Language and culture immersion combination programs
Many Moroccan language programs automatically include a cultural component through field trips, cooking classes, art demonstrations and other activities. Length of programs varies from a week to several months.
Language and internship combination programs
Internships are available at a few institutions in Morocco and are usually in combination with a university study abroad program. These types of programs are usually available for degree seeking students and require advanced planning. Program length is at least a semester and often a full school-year.
Language and volunteer combination programs
Volunteer and study programs are similar to internship combination programs, however some opportunities are available for a wider audience. The most famous program is the US Peace Corp, which requires a 2 year commitment, provides a living stipend, and places volunteers in areas of need.
Several other language institutes also provide volunteer opportunities. This is a good option for someone wanting to give back or increase their volunteer experience.
Where to Go
Arabic language courses are offered throughout Morocco but primarily in large cities. The widest offerings are found in Rabat in Casablanca, the capital and largest city.
The capital of Morocco, Rabat is home to many language programs. It also supports a large expat and diplomatic population and someone choosing to study in Rabat is likely to find all of their learning and living needs met.
Potential students in this city should take into consideration that while an international presence may be a good thing, it may also delay language acquisition. With so many people readily at hand to speak in their native language, it may hinder the use of Arabic in day-to-day interactions.
Another large city, Marrakech also has an expat population but a very different feel from Rabat. The Marrakechi accent is also distinguishable to other Darija speakers, much like the southern US dialect is to native American English speakers.
For a casual, short-term learner this may not be an issue, however for someone wishing to remain long-term may develop this accent. Culturally there are many very well-known international events that Marrakech plays host to and it is a great jumping off point for someone who wants easy access to the Atlas Mountains.
Tangier is the northernmost city in Morocco and has a very heavy Spanish influence. It also offers very easy access to Europe and would be a good choice for someone traveling and wanting a short-term language learning experience.
Whereas French is a secondary language in much of the country, Spanish is more prevalent in Tangier.
The largest city in Morocco, Casablanca is a very urban learning environment. Because of its size, there is a language program for everyone here. Culturally Casablanca, and it’s varied expat population provides the most goods and services for an international resident.
Like Rabat however, this may not be the best location to learn Arabic as it may not be a necessity for day-to-day life.
Planning Your Trip
- Did you know? Fez, Morocco is home to Karaouine University, the oldest operating educational institution in the world.
- School's out, lets have some fun: Morocco has a wide range of activities – from kite surfing on the Atlantic coast, trekking in the Atlas and Rif Mountains, and exploring ancient Imperial cities, there’s really something for everyone.
- Wow others with an idiom: Eda kan hbibak aassel, mat’lehsushi kamel = If your friend is honey, don’t lick him all up = This essentially translates to mean if you have a generous friend, don’t keep taking from them or their generosity may dry up.
What visas do you need?
For visitors from the United States and Europe, there is no visa requirement to stay in Morocco for up to 90 days. If a longer study program is desired, it is possible to apply for a longer stay. Working through an attributed program in the country, most can advise and help students acquire the necessary documentation.
Are there any other qualifications necessary to learn Arabic in Morocco?
Most language programs are offered to participants 16+. Some may require prior language study or an affiliation with a high school or university. There are very few instances where proficiency in the language is a requirement for entry.
Cultural immersion / extracurricular activities
Studying in Morocco isn’t complete without participating in cultural immersion activities. Most study programs have automatically included this as part of their curriculum. As most language classes are offered in large cities, students should make sure to visit some of the more rural areas of Morocco to experience a different side of life.
Cooking classes, visiting historical sites, and enjoying the environmental diversity in Morocco are all ways to experience the culture of this diverse country.
Morocco offers opportunities to learn Arabic for people of any budget. Short-term (1-2 week) intensive courses can provide for a basic understanding of the language while visiting.
There are some limited opportunities to do a language exchange; teaching English while learning Arabic. This can cut down on costs while learning. Overall living in Morocco can be done at a fraction of the cost as in the United States, and pairing up with another interested learning can cut down on costs, through shared accommodations and living expenses.
Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program – This program is offered through AMIDEAST to US high school students. Students apply and are placed in a home study. Support is offered through AMIDEAST to help students. Costs of studying are covered by the program.
Critical Language Scholarship Program = Arabic is one of the critical languages as determined by the US State Department. This scholarship program is open to current university students wanting to study Arabic in Morocco.
Fulbright US Student Program – The Fulbright scholarship program is one of the oldest and most prestigious scholarship programs offered. There are several categories for applications.
Many universities also offered scholarships to study Arabic in Morocco, however applicants need to be enrolled at the institution to apply.