French language in Lebanon

Town sign in Standard Arabic and French at the entrance of Rechmaya, Lebanon.

The French language in Lebanon is the second language of the country.[1] A law determines the cases in which the French language is to be used within government,[2] and is often used as a prestige language for business, diplomacy and education.


The use of the French language is a legacy of the time of the French Crusades[3] and France's colonialism in the region, including its League of Nations mandate over Lebanon following World War I; as of 2004, some 20% of the population used French on a daily basis.[4]

Role and purpose

Formerly under French mandate, independent Republic of Lebanon designates Arabic as the sole official language, while a special law regulates cases when French can be publicly used.

Article 11 of Lebanon's Constitution states that

"Arabic is the official national language. A law determines the cases in which the French language is to be used".[2]

The French language is used on Lebanese pound bank notes, road signs, vehicle registration plates, and on public buildings, alongside Arabic.

The majority of Lebanese people speak Lebanese Arabic, which is grouped in a larger category called Levantine Arabic, while Modern Standard Arabic is mostly used in magazines, newspapers, and formal broadcast media. Code-switching between Arabic and French is very common.[5][6][7]

Almost 40% of Lebanese are considered francophone, and another 15% "partial francophone," and 70% of Lebanon's secondary schools use French as a second language of instruction.[8][9] By comparison, English is used as a secondary language in 30% of Lebanon's secondary schools.[9] The use of Arabic by Lebanon's educated youth is declining, as they usually prefer to speak in French and, to a lesser extent, English.[5][10]

Attitudes toward French

Lebanese licence plate with the French language inscription "Liban".
French language inscription "Banque du Liban" on the headquarters of the Bank of Lebanon.

French and English are secondary languages of Lebanon, with about 45% of the population being Francophone as a second language and 30% Anglophone.[11] The use of English is growing in the business and media environment. Out of about 900,000 students, about 500,000 are enrolled in Francophone schools, public or private, in which the teaching of mathematics and scientific subjects is provided in French.[12] Actual usage of French varies depending on the region and social status. One third of high school students educated in French go on to pursue higher education in English-speaking institutions. English is the language of business and communication, with French being an element of social distinction, chosen for its emotional value.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Rouchdy, Aleya (2002). Language Contact and Language Conflict in Arabic: Variations on a Sociolinguistic Theme. Psychology Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7007-1379-0.
  2. ^ a b Prof. Dr. Axel Tschentscher, LL.M. "Article 11 of the Lebanese Constitution". Servat.unibe.ch. Retrieved 17 January 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Battye, Adrian; Hintze, Marie-Anne; Rowlett, Paul (2000). The French Language Today: A Linguistic Introduction (Second ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9781136903281 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Lebanon". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011.
  5. ^ a b Shawish, Hesham (24 June 2010). "Campaign to save the Arabic language in Lebanon". BBC News Online.
  6. ^ Mortada, Dalia (October 5, 2015). "Is Beirut the codeswitching capital of the world?". Public Radio International.
  7. ^ Talhouk, Suzanne (October 27, 2015). "Don't kill your language". TED.
  8. ^ Nadeau, Jean-Benoît; Barlow, Julie (28 May 2010). The Story of French. Knopf Canada. ISBN 9780307370495 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ a b Nadeau, Jean-Benoît; Barlow, Julie (2008). The Story of French. Macmillan. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-312-34184-8. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Arabic – a dying language?". France 24. Retrieved 25 June 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ OIF 2014, p. 217.
  12. ^ OIF 2014, p. 218.
  13. ^ OIF 2014, p. 358.

Works cited

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