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Society, Media & Culture of Lebanon

Nightlife in Beirut
Nightlife in Beirut

Lebanon is a bilingual, multi-religious, multicultural society. Arabic is the official language, but in certain cases, defined by law, French may be used in official documents (Constitution, Article 11). Nowadays, Arabic is the main spoken language, but many other languages are still also spoken. Syriac (Aramaic) and Greek are used in some communities. Turkish is still spoken in the northern province of Akkar, Kurdish and Armenian by the descendants of refugees from these regions.

As a second language, Italian used to be the traders’ common language due to longstanding bonds with the Venetians, but it was largely supplanted by French from the second half of the 19th century, as a result of France’s growing influence. The use of French in daily life is widespread. Two out of three children learn French as a second language, often in primary school, sometimes earlier, in pre-school. As a consequence of better schooling, more people speak French among the younger generations. About one-third learns English as a second language. There are strong regional differences, due to the choices of settlement by the different missionaries. English speaking missions were often to be found in the Druze or Shiite regions (Mount Lebanon, South Lebanon), whereas the ties between the French and the Maronites have always been strong. North Lebanon is the region where the least European languages are spoken.

Among the Christians (and to a lesser extent the Muslims) education was stimulated, and numerous schools were founded, even in remote villages, by a great number of mainly French or English speaking missionaries.

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