The North African country of Algeria and its rich tapestry of dialect is a fascinating point of interest. With an extensive history and a multitude of culture and communities, we are going to strip it back and take an insightful look into the languages of Algeria.

The official languages of Algeria are Arabic and Berber (Tamazight).  A staggering 99% of Algerians speak Arabic or Berber as their native tongue.

Arabic in Algeria

Since 1963, Arabic has had official language status in Algeria. It is estimated that 81% of the Algerian population speak this form of Arabic as their native dialect. Non-native speakers will typically learn literary Arabic in school.

Within the country, Arabic is widely used within many official settings including the media and government; with formal documents being printed in the language.

The Algerian variation of Arabic differs from standard Arabic in the sense that the standard version is typically reserved for official purposes, whereas Algerian Arabic is utilised more commonly in day-to-day settings- making it slightly more informal.

Berber in Algeria

In more recent, times Berber has taken its stance as Algeria’s second official language. Based on location, there are 5 different strands or dialects of the Berber language family. Berber speakers are most prevalent within areas such as Kabylia, the Algerian Saharah desert and Awras.

It was only in 2016 that Berber became recognised and was given official status. However, it has been spoken since the medieval times in Algeria. It is interesting to note that despite its extensive background in getting official recognition, Berber has in fact greatly influenced the vocabulary and grammar of Algerian Arabic- this means that to an extent, the two languages are mutually intelligible.

The Status of French in Algeria

Although French has no official status throughout Algeria, it is still widely used to this day. French is part of a typical school curriculum in Algeria, with around 18 million Algerian citizens able to read and write in French- this accounts for about half of the country’s entire population. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as French is one of the most richly spoken languages in the world.

Smaller regional languages

Alongside the larger, more greatly spoken dialects, many smaller regions are rife with their own languages. Some of which include: Hassaniya and Korandje- both of which are heavily influenced by Arabic and Berber.

Final thoughts

With both Arabic and Berber accounting for the majority of native tongue in Algeria, Algerian Arabic is the dominant language in both community and work settings. Even native Berber speakers are able decipher the language- meaning the high degree of mutual intelligibility allows for ease of communication amongst all Algerian people.

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