French language in Lebanon

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

French language in Lebanon is the second language of Lebanon,[1] and is often used as a prestige language for business, diplomacy, and government, alongside English.


The use of French language is a legacy of the time of the French Crusades[2] and France's historic ties to 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.[3]

Role and Purpose

A former French colony, 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".[4]

The French language is also 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.

Lebanese Sign Language is the language of the deaf community. 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.[5][6] By comparison, English is used as a secondary language in 30% of Lebanon's secondary schools.[6] 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, which are seen as 'hipper'.[7][8]

Attitudes toward French

Lebanese licence plate with the French language inscription "Liban".
An obsolete 100 Lebanese pound note with the French language inscriptions "Banque du Liban" and "Cent livres".
French language inscription "Banque du Liban" on the headquarter of the Bank of Lebanon.

French and English are secondary languages of Lebanon, with about 45% of the population being Francophone and 30% Anglophone.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] On social media, French was used on Facebook by just 10% of Lebanese in 2014, far behind English (78%).[12]

See also


  1. Aleya Rouchdy (2002). Language Contact and Language Conflict in Arabic: Variations on a Sociolinguistic Theme. Psychology Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7007-1379-0.
  2. "Lebanon". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011.
  3. Prof. Dr. Axel Tschentscher, LL.M. "Article 11 of the Lebanese Constitution". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  4. 1 2 Jean-Benoît Nadeau, Julie Barlow (2008). The Story of French. Macmillan. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-312-34184-8. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  5. "Campaign to save the Arabic language in Lebanon". BBC. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  6. "Arabic – a dying language?". France 24. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  7. OIF 2014, p. 217.
  8. OIF 2014, p. 218.
  9. OIF 2014, p. 358.
  10. "Citizen Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media" (PDF). Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government. 25 June 2014. p. 31. Retrieved 8 April 2015.

Works cited

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