Morocco is another fantastic tourist destination in northern Africa, lying on the edge of the Sahara and with a nice climate year round. But just how widely spoken is English there. Can American and British tourists expect to get by there just speaking English?
English is not widely spoken in Morocco overall, with around 15% of the population on average having some English skills. However, any holiday resorts or complexes will always have plenty of English speakers in. Venturing further out into towns and cities, English will be less prevalent, though still widespread enough in main tourist areas to get by.
The universal consensus though among people who have visited Morocco is that you will have no problems at all along any tourist path or central area, since English speakers will be abound. Not surprisingly, English speakers in Morocco are concentrated where they are needed the most to handle the growing number of tourists visiting each year, 12.3 million in 2018 and growing every year.
Languages in Morocco
The official languages of Morocco are Arabic and Berber. Of other languages, French is actually the most widespread, without around one third of the population able to speak it and around two thirds able to read and write French.
French is also now mandatory in schools, whilst English is not, but is still spoken by around 15% of the population as a rough estimate. Spanish is also spoken by a small percentage of the population, especially in the North towards the “tip” of Morocco that directly faces Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar.
However, for all practical purposes – teaching, business, administration, some media – French is the language that is used alongside Arabic, not English. Some road signs are double written in French and Arabic. It is far more widespread there than English, so if you have some French skills, it can really help you get by when visiting Moroccan cities for example.
Spoken English in Major Moroccan Cities
Lets be more specific and break down the reported levels of English speakers in some of the more commonly visited tourist destinations in Morocco.
Marrakesh – Popular for one and two day excursions by tourists. English will be spoken (or English leaflets available) at attractions like the Botanical gardens and the Koutoubia Mosque, the Kasbah, and various palaces and battlements. French will also come in handy when visiting Marrakesh. The use of English in the city continues to grow as well.
Casablanca – Major port city, best developed tourist market in the country so most people you deal with on the main tourist paths will speak English.
Fez – Popular tourist destination, also increasing number of expats buying second homes there. Has lots of important monuments; English will be spoken at all these attractions and in the main central parts of the city.
Agadir – Major coastal tourist resort, holding around a third of all tourist overnight stays in Morocco. Is used as a base for tours into the mountains. English will be spoken by at least one person in any major hotel you check into, and prevalence continues to grow as with Marrakesh.
Meknes – The old town is a Unesco Heritage site and has numerous mosques, gates and castles where you will find English language staff and/or leaflets. French also quite prevalent.
Tangier – Receives plenty of tourists to the museums and other attractions. English will be spoken at the main ones like Kasbah museum and Museum or Moroccan Arts & Antiquities, as well as around the Grand Socco & Petit Socco, the two main marketplaces.
Learning Some French & Arabic Phrases
Whilst Arabic is also a co-official language of Morocco alongside French, we figured French is the easiest to learn and the best one to have for use in daily life and commerce in the country. Between English and French, you will definitely be fine pretty much anywhere you go in Morocco; one or both will be spoken by almost everyone you interact with.
Here are some basic French phrases that will get you by in Morocco. Of course there are local dialects of French in different parts of the country, but standard French will still be well understood.
|How are you?||Comment ca va?||Comm-on sa-va?|
|Goodbye||Au revoir||Aah rev-wah|
|See you tomorrow||A demain||A der-man|
|Excuse me||Exusez moi||Es-skew zay moi|
|Please||S'il vous plait||Sih-voo-play|
|You're welcome||De rien||Duh-ree-an|
|Do you speak English?||Parlez vous anglais?||Parley voo arn-glay?|
|I don't speak French||Je ne parle pas francais||Je nay parley pas frarn-say|
|I don't understand||Je ne comprends pas||Je nay compron pah|
|Where is....?||où est......?||Ooh eh......?|
|The bill please?||L'addition s'il vous plait||La-dission sih voo play|
|Where is the bathroom?||Où sont les toilettes?||Ooh son leh twoylett?|
If you prefer using Arabic, then see here for some basic phrases that might come in useful:
See our Phrasebooks and Language Courses page for French and Arabic resources to learn the languages in more depth.
And then some practical info and links:
- Essential stats on Morocco:
- Population: 36.7 million
- Time zone: EST +6 hours; GMT +1 hours.
- Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD) ($1 = 10.7 MAD; £1= 12.65 MAD at time of writing)
- International calling code: +212 (see here for getting a working local SIM card/number when abroad)
- Drives on the right
- Luggage allowances – see here for an excellent guide on luggage allowances (checked and cabin) for all major airlines worldwide.
- Banking – If you don’t want to get stung with high ATM fees, check out our article on the Wise Borderless Card, which allows you to open up balances in many different currencies (including Moroccan dirham) and spend for free on your card, plus draw out a certain amount of local currency free each month.