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

Open the online Arabic language course

Index / Languages
Open map of LibyaFlag of LibyaLibya /

Figures in 1000.
Semitic 5,800 92.0%
5,800 92.0%
4,400 70.0%
530 8.5%
250 4.0%
250 4.0%
170 2.7%
105 1.7%
Levantine, South
60 1.0%
45 0.7%
Afro-Asiatic 275 4.5%
275 4.5%
220 3.5%
35 0.5%
14 0.2%
10 0.2%
6 0.1%
Indo-Aryan 33 0.6%
33 0.6%
Nilo-Saharan 5 0.1%
5 0.1%
Other 200 3.2%
Asian and African
200 3.2%

Of the two native languages to Libya, only Arabic has status as official language, Berber is respected by the government but not encouraged or supported.
English is the main foreign language, but not widely spoken. Italian, the old colonial language is well understood by the older generation, but less popular among the young.
All newspapers and TV-channels are in Arabic, most periodicals are in Arabic, but with a few in English.

Libyan Arabic, also named Sulaymi Arabic, comes in three main dialects: In the west, Tripolitanian Arabic, which is similar to the Bedouin Arabic of southern Tunisia, then Southern Libyan Arabic, and Eastern Libyan Arabic. Libyan Arabic is also spoken in Egypt, and by a few communities in Niger; in Egypt it usually is referred to as Western Bedouin.
The several other Arabic dialects come from the substantial communities of foreign workers.

Berber languages of Libya seem to still be vital, although little supported by central governments. The largest of these, Nafusi, is named after its region, the Nafusi Mountains that stretch into Tunisia (where Berber usage comes to an abrupt end right at the border), and on to the coast near Zuwara. Nafusi Berber speakers are reportedly proud of their language, and even in our times, children do not learn Arabic before starting school.
Other Berber languages, like Ghadames, Sukna, Awlija are limited to their own home villages (Ghadames, Sukna, Awjila). Exactly how much these understand of Nafusi is not well documented, but at least Ghadames, which is in the extreme end of the Nafusi Mountains, cannot be far off from Nafusi.
Of the smaller Berber languages, only Ghadames appears vital. Both Sukna and Awjila appear as a candidates for extinction, as young locals adopt Arabic.
Tamahaq Berber belongs is spoken in an wide area with Ghat as its centre, stretching into Algeria and Niger, counting altogether 65,000.

The Toubou people of Libya speaks Tedega language, which is rather similar to the other Toubou language, the Dazaga.

Information about the third daily language, Domari, is indirect. Apparently it is spoken across Libya, although mainly along the coast. The Doms form no large communities, rather small groups in most larger cities and towns.

While Circassian language is listed for counties with Circassian communities, Libya is an exception in not having any speakers. If it is correct that Circassian is no longer used, this reflects successful assimilation.

Other languages
Libya has a good number of foreign workers that usually learn Arabic, but use their native tongue in between themselves. These include (numbers from Ethnologue): Bulgarian (2,700), Eastern Panjabi (54,000), English (10,200), French (6,120), Greek (6,120), Italian (22,500), Korean (11,500), Maltese (5,400), Mandarin Chinese (1,730), Serbian (21,500) and Sinhala (12,200).

By Tore Kjeilen