Most Algerians are bilingual and some are multilingual. They may speak Arabic, French or one of several Berber dialects.

Arabic is the official language. Written Arabic is based on the classical Arabic of the Qu'ran common to all Arab countries. In classical Arabic, written letters denote consonants only. Modern Arabic may include vowels to indicate pronunciation. Arabic is written in a cursive script from right to left. There are twenty-eight characters in the alphabet. Arabic calligraphy is an art form and is often used to decorate public buildings and mosques.

The spoken Arabic dialect of Algeria is distinctive and includes words from the Berber, French, Spanish and Turkish languages. Although Algerians can easily communicate with Arab people in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, they may have difficulties understanding and being understood by Arabs from more distant nations, such as Syria or Jordan.

When Arabs meet, they often exchange extended formal greetings. Their word for "hello" means "Peace be upon you." The usual response is "And upon you also be peace." The name of Allah is often invoked in conversation. When an English-speaking person would say "Thank goodness," an Arabic speaker would say, "Allah be praised." Or, when an English-speaking person would say "Thank you," an Arabic speaker would say "May Allah give you health."

   Did you know?

Most Berber dialects do not exist in a written form, although the Tuaregs use an ancient script called tifinagh.

French is used by many educated Algerians in the universities and in journalism. The educational system, however, emphasizes Arabic as the primary language of instruction from the pre-school level, and it is now more common in universities and academic circles. This shift is part of the government's program of "Arabization": the creation of a country with its own language, religion and national identity, free of French language and influence.

There are many Berber dialects. The most widespread dialects are Kabyle, spoken in the Kabylie region in north-central Algeria, and Tamazight, spoken in northeast Algeria. Some dialects are restricted to small groups living in the Saharan oases.

  English Arabic
  Yes   Na'am
  No   La
  Please   'Afak (to a man)/ 'Afik (to a woman)
  Thank you   Shukran
  Hello   As-salaam 'alaykum
  Response to hello   Wa 'alaykum as-salaam
  Goodbye   Ma 'as-salaama
  How are you?   Kayf haalek?

   Did you know?

Some Arab names honour previous generations. Qasir ibn Mohammed ibn Ahmed means Qasir, son of Mohammed and grandson of Ahmed. Other names refer to a person's town of origin, such as Ali ibn Abdul el Bayadh, which means Ali, son of Abdul, of the town of Bayadh.