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Languages of Libya

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Title: Languages of Libya  
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Subject: Languages of Africa, Languages of the Comoros, Languages of São Tomé and Príncipe, Languages of Madagascar, Languages of Mauritius
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Languages of Libya

Languages of Libya
Ethnic composition of the Libyan population in 1974 (CIA map)
Official languages Standard Arabic
Vernaculars Libyan Arabic and other varieties of Arabic
Minority languages Berber, Domari, Tedaga
Main foreign languages English (mainly), Italian, French
Sign languages Libyan Sign Language

The de facto official language of Libya is Modern Standard Arabic. The majority of the population, about 95%, has one of the many varieties of Arabic as native language, most prominently Libyan Arabic, but also Egyptian Arabic, Tunisian Arabic and other varieties.

Minority languages

Besides Arabic, several Berber languages are spoken as well by ca. 305,000 speakers, the most significant group is concentrated in the Tripolitanian region ; Nafusi and Zuwara.[1] It is also spoken in some oasis such as Ghadamès, Awjilah, Sawknah. Tamahaq is spoken by the Tuaregs. In addition, Domari, an Indo-Iranian language is spoken by ca. 33,000 speakers and Tedaga, a Saharan, by a few thousands.[2]

The former dictator Muammar Gaddafi has denied the existence of Berbers as a separate ethnicity, and called Berbers a "product of colonialism" created by the West to divide Libya. The Berber language was not recognized or taught in schools, and it was forbidden in Libya to give children Berber names.[3][4]

After recent uprisings in Libya, the National Transitional Council (Revolutionaries) has shown an openness towards the Berber language. The independent Revolutionaries "Libya TV", has included the Berber language and its Tifinagh alphabet in some of its programming.[5]

Foreign languages

English is the most notable foreign language in business and for economical purposes and also spoken by the young generation. Moreover, there are thousands of young Libyan professionals who were educated in universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Italian is still known to some degree by some old people, mainly in the form of Libyan Italian. After the Libyan Civil War and the help coming from France, the French language started for the first time to be popular among the young generation. For that reason France will encourage the teaching of the French language in Libya.[6]


  1. ^ David Levinson. Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook. p. 145. 
  2. ^ Languages of Libya, Ethnologue
  3. ^ "Libya: Gaddafi Rails Against 'No Fly' Attacks and Berbers". 20 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Libyan rebels seize western border crossing, as fighting in mountains intensifies". The Washington Post. 21 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Libya TV – News in Berber
  6. ^ French FM Acknowledges Youths as Hope for the Future of Libya
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