"What language will you need when travelling in Lebanon?" you’re probably asking yourself. Short answer is that the Lebanese people are extremely accommodating in breaking the linguistic barrier, much more so than in many countries in the world, so a few words in English, maybe a word of French or Arabic and some hand gestures will mean you can communicate with most people.
What language do they speak in Lebanon?
The official language of Lebanon is Arabic. French is also an officially recognised language and is spoken by roughly 20% of the population.
What kind of Arabic do they speak in Lebanon?
Believe it or not they speak Lebanese Arabic, which is a variant of Levantine Arabic.
Lebanon is in a unique situation, in that despite being in the Middle East with a predominately Arab population, they are linguistically quite diverse. With so many families speaking French and English, it is becoming increasingly common for parents to speak to their children in these European languages, hoping it will give them the advantage in higher education and in finding employment abroad. Teachers are reporting that when they ask their students questions in Arabic, the students are responding in French or English.
Modern standard Arabic is used in publications but speaking it will usually mean you’ll fall on deaf ears.
French in Lebanon
At least 70% of the Lebanese population knows some amount of French with at least 30% of people being fluent. With that being said, there is a general move towards English like most of the world, as it is generally considered more useful.
English in Lebanon
English is also widely spoken and roughly 30% of the population are fluent in it. On top of this many people, especially younger generations, will know at least a small amount to help you get by. This makes Lebanon a relatively easy country to travel in linguistically.