Languages of Libya

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

The official language of Libya is Modern Standard Arabic. Most residents speak one of the varieties of Arabic as a first language, most prominently Libyan Arabic, but also Egyptian Arabic and Tunisian Arabic.

Major language[edit]


According to the CIA, the official language of Libya is Arabic.[1] The local Libyan Arabic variety is spoken alongside Modern Standard Arabic.

Minority languages[edit]


Various Berber languages are also spoken, including Tamasheq, Ghadamis, Nafusi, Suknah and Awjilah.[1] Both Berber and Arabic languages belong to the wider Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic) family.

Berber speakers number around 305,000 individuals. Of these, the most significant group, the Nafusi and Zuwara, is concentrated in the Tripolitanian region.[2] Berber languages are also spoken in some oases, including Ghadamès, Awjilah, Sawknah. Tamahaq is spoken by the Tuareg.

Libya's former Head of State Muammar Gaddafi 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]


The Domari, an Indo-Iranian language spoken by the Dom people (ca. 33,000 speakers).


The Nilo-Saharan Tedaga language is spoken by a few thousand Teda people.[6]

Foreign languages[edit]

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.[7]