Approximately 15 languages are spoken in Libya. The official and national language of Libya is Arabic. The type of Arabic spoken in the country is the Modern Standard Arabic. The language has been used as the official language of communication since independence. The Libyan Arabic belongs to the Afroasiatic family of languages and is divided into two dialects; the eastern dialect which is spoken mainly in Bengazhi and Bayda and the western dialect which is spoken in Tripoli and Misurata.

All but a small minority in Libya are native Arabic speakers. According to the 2006 census, there are 4 million Libyan Arabic speakers. Currently, Arabic speakers account for over 90% of the total population. The majority of the remaining 10% have knowledge of the basic Arabic words such as names of popular items and facilities. About 300,000 Libyan Arabic speakers live in Egypt while another 5,000 live in Nigeria.

The Libyan Arabic is used mainly in spoken communication in the country. It is also used in Libyan folk poetry and songs. The Libyan Arabic is similar to the Arabic language spoken in other Arabic countries including Egypt and Tunisia. Most of the vocabularies used have the same meaning as Classical Arabic. However, several words have different but related meanings to the Classical Arabic. Traditional Arabic greetings such as" As-salam alaykum", meaning “peace be unto you” can be used as a casual greeting as well as a formal one. The correct response to this phrase is “wa alaykum as-salam” which means, “and unto you, peace”.

Although Arabic is the widely spoken language in Libya, there are about 11-12 minority languages spoken in the country. The widely spoken minority language in the country is the Berber language belonging to Afroasiatic family of languages. Other minority languages spoken in the country include Domari spoken by Dom people and Tedaga spoken by Teda people. The Italian language is the widely spoken foreign language in Libya. English and French are also spoken in the country with English considered a business and economic language.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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