Index / Languages
In terms of languages, Tunisia has the most uniform culture of all North African countries. Close to each and everyone speak Tunisian Arabic. A great majority have good to excellent conduct of French, which remain an important culture language, and all across the country, the young learn English too.
The reason for this uniformity, created over the recent decades, is geography. Tunisia is both far smaller than its neighbours, and also the only country not divided by desert or mountains into several zones. All central governments of North Africa have exercised the same radical Arabization, but Tunisia was the only country where it became truly successful. As for languages spoken in daily life, Arabic has today nearly won the language battle of Tunisia, and is close to having Berber entirely replaced.
Tunisian Arabic is usually divided into 6 dialects: Tunis; Sahel; Sfax; North-Western; South-Western; and South-Eastern. The dialect used for media and textbooks is the Tunis dialect. Tunisian Arabic is close to Eastern Algerian Arabic (see Algeria / Languages), but there are distinct differences between the two variants. The southern dialects come close to Libyan Arabic (see Libya / Languages).
The Berber language of Chelha is quickly losing ground in Tunisia, following decades of discrimination by central authorities and is generally looked down on by most Tunisians. It belongs to a few remaining villages, especially Chenini and Douiret, but the new generation here seem to embrace Arabic as first language.
French remains a spoken language among both expatriates and some of the indigenous elite. About half of Tunisia's newspapers are in French; the French have a higher quality content, the Arabic newspapers fall more into the category of sport and gossip news. To some extent, the same applies to periodicals, of which the largest weekly magazine is in French; a majority of the large ones are in Arabic, though. Also, with the threat of Islamism in our days, many Tunisians embrace French even more than before as a means of staying in touch with European culture and ideals.