Languages and population of Algeria

  • 5768

The official language of Algeria is (literary) Arabic, as specified in its constitution since 1963.

Tell your friends

In addition to this, Berber has been recognized as a "national language" by constitutional amendment since May 8, 2002. Between them, these two languages are the native languages of over 99% of Algerians, with Arabic spoken by about 72% and Berber by 27%. French, though it has no official status, is still widely used in government, culture, media (newspapers) and education (since primary school), due to Algeria's colonial history and can be regarded as being de facto the co-official language of Algeria. The Kabyle language, the most spoken Berber language in the country, is taught and partially co-official (with a few restrictions) in parts of Kabylia.

Arabic

Algerian colloquial Arabic is spoken as a native language by more than 83% of the population; of these, over 78% speak Algerian Arabic and around 5% Hassaniya. Algerian Arabic is spoken as a second language by many Berbers. However, in the media and on official occasions the spoken language is Standard Arabic.

Berber

Berber languages are spoken by around 40% of Algeria's population, mainly in Kabylia, in the Aurès, and in the Sahara (by Tuaregs), and also in and around Algiers, the capital city. Long before the Phoenicians' arrival, Berber was spoken throughout Algeria, as later attested by early Tifinagh inscriptions. Despite the growth of Punic, Latin and later, Arabic, Berber remained the main language of Algeria until the invasion of the populous Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym tribal confederation in the 11th century.

Algerians speak one of the various dialects of Berber (native name: Tamazight), which add up to around 28%-45% of the population.[63] Arabic remains Algeria's only official language, although Berber has recently been recognized as a national language.

French

French is the most widely studied foreign language in the country, and a majority of Algerians can understand it and speak it, though it is usually not spoken in daily life. Since independence, the government has pursued a policy of linguistic Arabization of education and bureaucracy, which has resulted in limiting the use of Berber and the Arabization of many Berber-speakers. The strong position of French in Algeria was little affected by the Arabization policy. All scientific and business university courses are still taught in French. Recently, schools have begun to incorporate French into the curriculum as early as children are taught written classical Arabic. French is also used in media and business. After a political debate in Algeria in the late 1990s about whether to replace French with English in the educational system, the government decided to retain French. English is taught in the first year of middle schools.

Classes and Castes. The majority of Algerians are poor. Those who are better off are almost always Arabs, and tend to be urban and well educated. The upper classes generally look down not just upon the Berbers, but also upon rural, seminomadic Arabs who speak a different dialect. However, most Algerians are racially a mix of Arab and Berber, and variations in skin tone and hair color are not reflected in social standing.