Colonisation, occupation, trade and globalisation have left their mark on every language in the world. All languages have adopted a large range of vocabulary from their neighbours, occupiers, and “occupees”.

Although English may have deja vu, laissez faire and RSVP, this is next-to-nothing compared to the extent that French has became part of the language of many Arabic speaking countries, particularly in North Africa and the “West” of the Middle-East. If you want to learn the dialects of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia or Lebanon, an ability to speak French is almost a prerequisite.

The below commentaries are written by individuals remarking on the unique situation in these countries. They help to better understand the extent of French influence on these languages. You can click on these commentaries to read the full documents.

Turn on the radio and you will hear Tunisians speak sentences in which Arabic nouns follow French adjectives followed by Arabic verbs and French adverbs.

Officially in Morocco, the French language is considered a foreign language, but once you go to a Moroccan government agency you will notice that, in fact, you are the one who is the foreigner. Everything is written in French, from documents to the door mount nameplates on the gates of offices and pavements.

Diplomats coming to Algeria after serving elsewhere in the region are amazed that Algerians rarely finish a sentence in the same language they started it in.

When Randa Makhoul, an art teacher at a school in Beirut, asks her students a question in Arabic, she often gets a reply in English or French.

So, if you’ve been studying Arabic with plans of travelling to or living in one of these countries, don’t forget to pack a French dictionary for your trip, and enjoy the thrill of speaking multiple languages in every conversation.