It’s well-known that across the world, some languages can be more or less agreeable to listen to.
Here again each person has their own preferences, but there are some commonalities that shine through when a language is melodic, whereas others make you want to stick plugs in your ears.
In Lebanon, Arabic is the official national language. Yet Arabic is one of those with the bad reputation of sounding quite harsh when you hear it.
However, Lebanon breaks the stereotype, proving that Arabic can be spoken in a soft way that won’t make you feel “aggressed” as some would say.
Languages spoken in Lebanon
The majority of Lebanese people speak Arabic, it is one of the closest to literary Arabic and isn’t considered a dialect. They also speak either French (influenced by the French mandate in Lebanon) and/or English fluently. Actually, you’ll see it often ends up being a mixture of the three in one sentence:
Hi, kifak? ca va?
I hear these kinds of mixtures all the time, and nowadays I catch myself also doing it sometimes actually…
Anyway, from an education point of view, you’ll find that people are usually “French educated” or “English educated”. This simply means that Arabic apart of course, the main language taught in the school will be either UK or FR.
Since there is a part of the population that originates from Armenia or Greece and so on, their languages are spoken within the communities as well.
When you go to Lebanon, you should manage to communicate one way or another as the people are very helpful there, even if there is a language barrier, their determination to give you a hand will overcome it all. 😉
Arabic alphabet and phonetics
The Arabic alphabet is composed of 28 letters and is written from right to left.
The letters are not that different to our alphabet actually, meaning it’s not too difficult to understand and pronounce most of the letters in my opinion; it’s the Arabic writing only that makes it look impressive and difficult. Of course, there are some letters that are new and different, but it’s quite easy compared to learning Mandarin Chinese for instance.
One thing that is quite difficult when learning how to read and write in Arabic, is that each letter depending on its positioning in the word (separate, initial, medial, final) will be written differently.
If you are bilingual French/English like me, then you’ll find that most of the letters are easy to pronounce except for the “3a”(aayn) and “7” (Haa), as they come from the back of the throat and neither of these 2 languages use such sounds.
- Letters I found easier thanks to French:
khaa – raa – ghaa
- Letters I found easier thanks to English:
thaa – haa- dhaa – waa
These are the moments where I thank mama for being strict with keeping both languages going.
A few Lebanese words and sentences
- Habibi: This one you’ll need to understand more than anything, because you’ll sure hear it a lot! It literally means “sweetheart” or “my love”, it is used when speaking to any person male/female, known/unknown and even the person you might be having a fight with…
Habibi, you are the one that caused the accident not me, you bumped into my car!
- Yalla = let’s go!
- Thank you = Shookran
- Be welcome (in an area) = Ahla wa sahla / ahlan
- Hello = Mar7aba – Pronounced “Marhaba”
- How are you = Kifek/ak (female/male)
- Excuse me/sorry = you can say it in English, most Lebanese say it like that anyway.
- Yes / No = Eh / La
- My name is Karen = Esme Karen – What’s your name ? = Shu esmek/ak ?
- I don’t speak arabic = Ma biehki Arabi
- You’re welcome = Tekram (male) / Tekramé (Female)
- Nice to meet you = Tsharaffna
You can use and train yourself with the app Keefak Junior, this will help you know a few typical and basic Lebanese words before your trip!
Let me know what you think about Lebanese Arabic and if you manage to speak or pronounce it well?