Is Beirut the codeswitching capital of the world?

At this high-end organic farmer’s market in downtown Beirut, buyers and sellers speak a mishmash of languages, usually Arabic and English or French.

Pia Bou Khater is at the market with me. At the juice stand, she switches too. “Oh, I think I have change,” she says in English, before she continues in Arabic, “3000.”

Codeswitching this way is one of the characteristics that defines life in Beirut for visitors and for many Lebanese.

“When I’m interacting with people, like buying things or trying to bargain, I rarely switch,” Pia explains. “I do try to often figure out what the green leafy thing in question is, like, oh, is this the same as that in English? And then the word in French comes up,” she laughs, “and I’m like oh no I don’t know it in French, please stop making this difficult.”

Red more: PRI

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