Tunisia is one of the most homogenous of the Maghreb states when it comes to the languages spoken by its people. The official language of Tunisia is Literary Arabic, which is a language with several standard versions. Literary Arabic is the literary variety of the Arabic language which is used in formal speech and writing in Tunisia. While Modern Standard Arabic is the official language of Tunisia, Tunisian Arabic, or Darija, is the country’s native language.

The large number of migrations that took place in Tunisia’s history contributed to the diverse linguistic landscape of the country. Some of the major languages spoken in Tunisia include the Tunisian Darija or the Tunisian Arabic, spoken by the vast majority of Tunisian people. Tunisian Arabic, locally known as Darija or Tunsi, is a set of dialects with no formal body or standards, closely related to the Maltese language and influenced by Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, French, and Italian. It was also influenced by the various settlers in Tunisia and has evolved greatly through the years. Today, it is Tunisia’s national language which is spoken by 11 million people and is hardly understood by the Middle Eastern Arabic speakers due to the differences between it and the variants of Arabic spoken elsewhere. Minority languages spoken in Tunisia include the Berber languages which are the main minority languages in Tunisia spoken by less than 1% of the Tunisian population.

French, English, and Italian are the main foreign languages spoken in Tunisia, with a significant portion of the Tunisian population who speaks Turkish. The popularization of European languages in Tunisia is primarily a result of the geographical proximity of the country to Europe. During the French protectorate of Tunisia, French was heavily popularized in the country. However, its dominant role was gradually replaced by the Arabic languages after the country gained independence. Education systems and administrative services in Tunisia still use French aside from Literary Arabic, and half of Tunisian newspapers are published in French. A good knowledge of the French language is still regarded as an important social marker, despite the promotion of Arabic languages in the country. French is also heavily represented among the business community, as well as the intellectuals and scientists of the Tunisian society. Commerce between tourists and locals is conducted in either Arabic or French, and over 60% of the population of Tunisia is literate in French. The deaf community in Tunisia utilizes the Tunisian Sign Language, which is the sign language derived from Italian Sign Language, mixed with indigenous sign.


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