Rabat, Asharq Al-Awsat – A recent study showed that Moroccans are four times more likely to use French than Arabic when utilizing Facebook, whilst the number of Facebook users in Morocco now exceeds 5 million. For his part, Murad Bennis of the Arab Language Association, speaking during a seminar at the “Language in the Media” conference in Rabat, revealed that Moroccans use French, Arabic and English, along with other languages, in their interactions on social networking websites, including Facebook.
Bennis based his information and statistics regarding the usage of Facebook in Morocco on two studies, namely a “Social Expert” study and another by “Arab Social Media Report”. Both studies focus on the manner in which Facebook is utilized in the Middle East and North Africa.
Bennis revealed that both studies indicate that in 2012 approximately 5 million Moroccans used Facebook, accounting for 16 percent of the population of the country. He added that this figure is growing rapidly and witnessed an increase from 4 million in 2011 to 5 million by 2012. He also stressed that 80 percent of Morocco’s Facebook users are under 30-years of age, whilst 40 percent are women.
As for the question of language – including interface language and the language that personal information is displayed in – Bennis revealed that 75 percent of Moroccan Facebook users utilize French, in comparison to just 17 percent who use Arabic. As for the remaining users, 4 percent use English, whilst the rest utilize various other languages. Compare this with figures from Egypt, where 55 percent of Egypt’s Facebook users utilize Arabic, 40 percent use English, and only a very small number use French. As for Tunisia, Bennis revealed that only 4 percent of Tunisian Facebook users use the site via its Arabic language portal, asserting that an overwhelming 90 percent majority preferred French.
Bennis also revealed that many Moroccans use slang on Facebook, utilizing a blend between vernacular and classical French. He said “the French that is used by Moroccans is colloquial French, in all its diversity” adding “those who use this are not just Francophiles.”
The Moroccan researcher stressed that “the use of English by Moroccans is also on the rise in the latest period…particularly on international pages.”
Bennis explained that the reason behind Moroccans utilizing the French language to this degree on social networks is that French is viewed as the language of the elites, adding that most Moroccans do not possess Arabic-language keyboards and are therefore unaccustomed to typing Arabic. He also attributed the French language’s popularity in Morocco to the popularity and speed of French-language media.