Lebanon: The Ultimate Code-Switching Country

To start this post, below is Wikipedia’s definition of code-switching:

“In linguistics, code-switching occurs when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation. Multilinguals, speakers of more than one language, sometimes use elements of multiple languages when conversing with each other.”

 bilingual animals

I strongly believe that Beirut is the ultimate code-switching capital. The majority of Lebanese are trilingual and not just bilingual. Our modern culture is so influenced by the French and English (British or American English alike) cultures and our language takes on so many of the French and English languages’ characteristics that Lebanese people can no longer help it: they jump from one language to another, not just between sentences, but in the same sentence, even if it is merely 3 words long. Oh, and there’s a term for that; it’s called “intra-sentential switching”. Bam!

If you thought that was something, you’re in for another interesting fact: Juggling between Arabic, English and French comes as a no brainer for most Lebanese, and when the code-switchers in subject are Armenian Lebanese, then it gets all the more mind-boggling: 4 languages in a single sentence? Who on earth can beat that?

One does not simply

It’s absurd, but everyone is guilty of doing it; even I’m nodding my head, not in shame though. I think this is what makes us special. No, I mean it, and I’m not ashamed of admitting it. I am a proud code-switcher. It’s part of my identity (to all of you negative Lebanese who keep giving us lectures about speaking only Arabic, just get over it already!). Even my 6 year old switches from Arabic, to French to English while speaking.

I mean, after all, how can we not be code-switchers? We do learn 3 languages in school so we might as well put them to good use in our everyday lives. Right? Right.


What makes us different is that it has become our way of speaking. Multilingual people around the world speak their mother tongue at home and another acquired language such as English in the workplace. In Lebanon, we are all Lebanese and we speak with each other using different languages. That’s the charm of it!

Below are a few famous examples of how a typical Lebanese speaks:


Hi! Kifak, ça va?

There you have it: 1 sentence, 3 words, 3 languages. And there are more to come.

Maître! El fetoura, please.

Wait, it doesn’t stop there.

Salut! Missed you ana!

This is basically spoken by Lebanese ladies.

Habibi see you, bisous!

I call this the modern Lebanese. It’s like a hybrid language! 😀

Some Lebanese even turn French into Lebanese: Bonjourein, Bonsoirein, Bizouyèt, etc.


“Hello”, “Thank you” and/or “how are you?” are all spoken in French or English

Salut! Merci! Ça va?

Hi! Thanks!


Code-switching is like our badge of Honor. We earned it.

Fellow Lebanese! Know any other examples? Please share them in the comments below 🙂

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