Monday, February 29, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Lebanon

Over the past month, we've looked at the linguistic diversity of Finland, Singapore, Turkmenistan, and Norway. Today, our final language profile of February is going to look at the languages of Lebanon, a country located in the Middle East. While it may only be home to five native languages, it's still worth a brief look!

An international fairground in Tripoli, Lebanon.
The Official Language

As is true of many other countries in the Middle East, the sole official language of Lebanon is Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic, the standardized literary form of Arabic used all over the world, is used for writing and in media such as television, radio, and newspapers. When it comes to daily life, most Lebanese people speak Lebanese Arabic, a variety of Levantine Arabic.

Other Languages

One interesting thing about Lebanon's linguistic makeup is that a significant proportion of Lebanon's population is multilingual. Both French and English are widely used in business, government and education. Of the two languages, French is much more important due to its long history in the country, since Lebanon was once a French colony. Today, the country is home to about 16,000 native speakers of French, as well as over 650,000 people who speak it as a second language. 

The use of English, on the other hand, is more recent and is especially common when it comes to the realms of business and science. While there are only about 3,000 native English speakers in Lebanon, it is also used as a second language in about 30% of the country's secondary schools.

Finally, Lebanon is home to speakers of two other native languages: Armenian and Kurdish. According to the Ethnologue's most recent statistics, Lebanon was home to about 235,000 Armenian speakers back in 1986. Its data for Kurdish is more recent, stating that in 2002 there were approximately 75,000 native Kurdish speakers in the country. Both languages are still used by minority groups in the country today.