Bookmark and Share

1. Geography
2. Political situation
3. Defense
4. Economy
a. Figures
b. Currency
5. Health
6. Education
a. Universities
7. Demographics
8. Religions
a. Freedom
9. Peoples
10. Languages
11. Human rights
12. History
13. Cities and Towns

Open the online Arabic language course

Index / Languages
Open map of AlgeriaAlgeria /

Figures in 1000.
Semitic 26,000 79.0%
26,000 79.0%
25,600 77.5%
300 0.9%
Saharan Algerian
120 0.4%
Afro-Asiatic 6,900 21.0%
6,900 21.0%
5,000 15.0%
1,700 5.0%
90 0.3%
80 0.2%
50 0.2%
30 0.1%
20 0.1%
7 <0.1%
Nilo-Saharan 8 <0.1%
8 <0.1%
Indo-European 110 0.3%
110 0.3%

There are two major languages of Algeria, Arabic and Berber. Berber is generally spoken in mountainous areas, a reflection of centuries of tension, warfare and suppression in which the Arabs so far has come out of as victors.
For decades Arabic was the only official language, since 2002 Berber is recognized as a national language. Arabic, in its Algerian version, is spoken by about 4 of 5 Algerians. Berber is spoken by 1 of 5.

All Algerians have to learn Arabic in school. Algerian Arabic takes many words from Berber languages, Turkish and French.
Jijel Arabic, spoken in the region of Jijel, is noted for preserving its older structures, dating back to the Arabic invasions of the 7th and 8th centuries. Surviving in the coastal mountains, it never was exposed to immigrations from Egypt since the 11th century. Andalucian immigration has, however, left its traces.
Algerian Saharan, spoken in the south, belong largely to the Bedouin branches of Arabic.

Berber languages of Algeria largely belong the the coast east of Algiers and into the mountains of Kabylia and Aurès. Many in the south also have Berber as their first language. In the west, Arabic dominates to a degree that Berber may be considered extinct.
Algeria today has two major Berber languages, both in the northeast. In the south there are a handful of small Berber languages, mainly reflecting geographical conditions.

The first of the major, northern languages is Kabyle, named similar to its native region. It is spoken by between 1.5 and 6 million, depending on who gives the estimates, living in the mountainous north of the country. Kabyle has a writing language and its own alphabet, and is presently used by local authorities, and there is an increasing number of schools teaching it.

The other major, northern languages is Tachawit or Chaouia. It is spoken in the regions south and southeast of the Grand Kabylia, especially in the Aurès Mountains. It is not a written language, and most of its speakers are fluent in Arabic. It is not used for much beyond everyday conversation.

Tumzabt belongs to the M'zab oasis (Ghardaïa is the main city). It does not have a writing system.

Chenoua spoken by about 80,000 in certain towns in the northwest of the country, and is close to both Tachawit and Kabyle. It does not have a writing system.

Tamahaq is the language of Tamanrasset, the largest town of the south. It is also spoken in Libya, in the oasis town of Ghat. This language is sometimes even referred to as Touareg. It does not have a writing system.

Tagargrent is spoken between several small communities in the northeastern part of Sahara. It does not have a writing system.

Taznatit is spoken by peoples living in the region of the oasis of Timimoun, in the Touat region and southwest of M'zab. It is more isolated than other Berber languages, making it harder for its speakers to communicate with other Berbers. It does not have a writing system.

In Algeria there are two variants of Tamazight: Temacine is used near Touggourt, Tidikelt near In-Salah. The two communities are a staggering 800 km apart. Tamazight is spoken by 3.5 million in Morocco, making this Algerian minority one of the very largest Berber speaking groups in total. In Morocco it has a writing system, but there is no data about this being used in Algeria.

Small languages
In the oasis of Tabelbela in western Algeria, Korandje is spoken. Korandje is not a Berber language, being of the Songhai branch of the Nilo-Saharan family it originates from countries south of Sahara.
French is still spoken by more than 100,000 people. It is a language of higher learning and culture, as well as of international commerce. French appears only to become stronger, although the number of daily speakers seem not to be on the increase.

By Tore Kjeilen