Languages of Egypt
|Languages of Egypt|
|Vernacular||Egyptian Arabic (68%)|
(de facto lingua franca)
|Minority||Sa'idi Arabic (29%)|
Bedouin Arabic (1.6%), Sudanese Arabic (0.6%)
Coptic (for Coptic Christian rituals)
|Signed||Egyptian Sign Language|
|Historical language(s)||Ancient Egyptian|
|This article is part of a series on|
|Life in Egypt|
Egyptians speak a continuum of dialects. The predominant dialect in Egypt is Egyptian Colloquial Arabic or Masri/Masry (مصرى Egyptian), which is the vernacular language. Literary Arabic is the official language and the most widely written; additionally, it is the liturgical language of Islam, the majority religion and state religion of Egypt. The Coptic language is used primarily by Egyptian Copts and it is the liturgical language of Coptic Christianity.
Main spoken language
Of the many varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic is the most widely understood first dialect in the Middle East-North Africa, probably due to the influence of Egyptian cinema and music industry throughout the Arabic-speaking world.
In southern Egypt, Saidi Arabic is the main spoken language for most people.
In the western desert Eastern Libyan Arabic is spoken.
About 30,000 Egyptian Berbers living in the Siwa oasis and its surroundings speak Siwi Berber, which is a variety of the Berber language of North Africa. Siwi Berber is well mutually intelligible with Libyan Berber dialects [source?]. In ancient times, the population of western Egypt was probably made of Berber-speaking tribes[source?].
The only known sign language used in Egypt is Egyptian Sign Language. It is known to be used in Alexandria and Cairo, and possibly other regions. Regional variation is reported anecdotally but not documented.
Most educated people in Egypt study English at school. There are also three English language universities in Egypt, the BUE (British University in Egypt), the FUE (Future University in Egypt) and the AUC (American University in Cairo). English is the most widely used language in tourism. Nowadays, the majority of the road signs in Egypt are written both in Arabic and English. In addition, many English words have started being used by Egyptians during the everyday life. English has a crucial position in Egypt: banknotes and coins, as well as stamps, are bilingual in English and Arabic. There is also an important press in the English language in the country, comprising several weeklies and a daily newspaper, The Daily News Egypt.
In 2009-2010 about six million people learned French in Egypt, and this number increased to 8 million in 2013. As of 2014 most persons in Egypt using French have studied it as a foreign language in school.
The first French-medium schools in Egypt were established in 1836. By the end of the 19th century it became the dominant foreign language in Egypt and the lingua franca of foreigners; this was especially the case in Cairo.
French became the primary foreign language in media during the rule of Ibrahim Pasha. During the period of the British colonization of Egypt French was actually the medium of communication among foreigners and between foreigners and Egyptians; the mixed French-Egyptian civil courts operated in French, and government notices from the Egyptian Sultan, taxi stand information, timetables of trains, and other legal documents were issued in French. In addition the usage of French in the media was at the greatest extent in this period. This was partly because of some Egyptians had French education and partly because of cultural influence from France. Despite efforts from British legal personnel, English was never adopted as a language of the Egyptian civil courts during the period of British influence.
Due to social and political reasons, the role of French in Egypt began to decline in the 1920s. There are still two newspapers published in the French language.
Other foreign languages
Bilingual Arabic-English sign in Cairo.
Bilingual Arabic-French street sign in Alexandria.
A market in Hurghada with a Russian language banner (on the right).
Other Egyptian languages (also known as Copto-Egyptian) consist of ancient Egyptian and Coptic, and form a separate branch among the family of Afro-Asiatic languages. The Egyptian language is among the first written languages, and is known from hieroglyphic inscriptions preserved on monuments and sheets of papyrus. The Coptic language, the only extant descendant of Egyptian, is today the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
- Claude Rilly (2011). Recent Research on Meroitic, the Ancient Language of Sudan. http://www.ityopis.org/Issues-1_files/ITYOPIS-I-Rilly.pdf. Under the sub-heading - The original cradle of Proto-NES: chronological and palaeoclimatic issues. p. 18
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- Siwi (siwi or žlan n isiwan) is a Berber language spoken at the oasis of Siwa in western Egypt (Matrūħ Province), about 500 km west of the Nile and 250 km south of the Mediterranean coast, by a little less than 15,000 people, forming a majority of the oasis' population. The nearest Egyptian oasis, Bahariyya, is some 350 km east of Siwa. Siwi is also spoken at the tiny oasis of Gāra near Siwa, and I was told of a multigenerational Siwi community at nearby Jaghbūb in Libya. page 16 of the book GRAMMATICAL CONTACT IN THE SAHARA: Arabic, Berber, and Songhay in Tabelbala and Siwa, August 2010, by: Lameen Souag. 
- Daily News Egypt Official Website
- La langue française dans le monde 2014 (PDF). Nathan. 2014. p. 216–217. ISBN 978-2-09-882654-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015. "Pour la majorité des locuteurs actuels, le français n’est plus une langue maternelle ou une langue seconde ; il est devenu une langue étrangère qui s’apprend à l’école ou dans les centres culturels. Aujourd’hui, précédant l’allemand et suivant l’anglais (répandu à partir des années 1930), le français est la deuxième langue étrangère en Égypte et compte 8 millions d’apprenants en 2013, soit 2 millions de plus qu’en 2009-2010."
- La langue française dans le monde 2014 (PDF). Nathan. 2014. p. 216. ISBN 978-2-09-882654-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015. "À partir de 1836 sont fondés des établissements employant le français comme langue d’enseignement. [...] C’est à partir des années 1920 que le français commence à perdre du terrain pour des raisons politiques et sociales."
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