Being Trilingual, As Told By A Lebanese Citizen
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Politics and Activism

Being Trilingual, As Told By A Lebanese Citizen

It's more than just a skill, it's an identity.

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Being Trilingual, As Told By A Lebanese Citizen
Katrina Rbeiz

One of the biggest differences from having attended international schools my entire life compared to attending an all American college here in the States is the fact that people are shocked to hear that I can speak three languages: English, French, and Arabic.

In every country I’ve lived in, I’m typically met with a variety of people, each of them able to speak at least two if not more languages. Hearing these languages and being exposed to these cultures on an everyday basis creates this expectation for future environments to be similar. Not one day went by where I didn’t hear more than three languages bouncing around the corridors of the school, or the busy marketplace in the streets. Trilingual and bilingual speakers made up my community, my home, and my identity for 18 years of my life, so it’s strange for people to perceive it to be so different in my new environment.

SEE ALSO: 10 Signs You Attended An International School
It’d almost be laughable if I couldn’t speak three languages: Arabic, French, and English, because my father is Lebanese and my mother is American. Naturally, most of the Lebanese population can effectively communicate and share ideas by switching back and forth between these three languages, often incorporating it into social affairs and into playful ways of speaking to one another. In Lebanon, it no longer is a dialect for business but has transformed into a way in which we socialize and express ourselves. One is not Lebanese if they don’t say “Hi, kifak, ca va?”, which roughly translates into "hi, how are you, you alright?". There are even t-shirts expressing these sentiments, as it’s become so ingrained in our cultural identities that by knowing these three languages, you open the gateways to the Lebanese culture. So, having gone through all of that, it’s not a big surprise that I can comprehend and can speak these languages, for they make up my identity and surroundings.

At the sound of someone speaking Arabic on campus, I get so excited that I'm almost tempted to run up to the people and ask them where they're from, only for them to apprehensively look at me, their minds running with the thoughts of “what is wrong with this white girl?” Even back in all of the countries I've lived in, I never came across as someone who could understand, let alone speak Arabic.

You can imagine all of the interesting situations I ran into when confronted with people speaking the language around me, unaware that I could understand everything they were saying.

As I've transitioned from my international surroundings into the United States, it made me appreciate the Arabic and French to a degree I never thought was possible. These languages were always perceived as burdens throughout my years of schooling, almost like they were being forced in every aspect of my life. Now, being separated from a part of home I never realized affected my comfort, I yearn for the days where these languages were part of my daily routine and lifestyle.

SEE ALSO: 5 Differences Between A House And A Home, As Told By A Third Culture Kid

It's fascinating how much you realize you miss something once it's gone. Thankfully, I'm lucky enough to re-immerse myself in these environments during winter and spring breaks, as I plan on entering Lebanon with a new mindset; one of new-appreciation and endearment.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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