BEIRUT: Alice Kezhaya grew up speaking English, Arabic and French, so it’s no surprise that once she reached university, her research turned toward multilingualism.
The AUB senior recently presented her ongoing linguistic study of Hamra and the surrounding neighborhoods, where she found that while English dominated the main street, “pockets of Arabic” continued to exist along the side streets and alleyways.
Kezhaya relied on signage to determine where English, Arabic and French were most prevalent and then created a map of the Hamra area with different colors outlining where each language was sighted.
“Now it’s about pushing the borders of Hamra to find out where linguistically the borders are, if there are any, and what it means to be in a multilingual city,” said Kezhaya, who has begun expanding toward Manara.
Although she said more research was needed, Kezhaya hypothesized that the linguistic divide between Hamra main street and the small streets was likely linked to class and money.
“Most of the signs in English belong to big companies,” she explained. “There is also the difference in rent, between old and new rent, and alleyways tend to have more old renters.”
Kezhaya plans to continue her project after she graduates this summer. With no immediate plans for after graduation, the project supports her interests in research and publishing.
For Kezhaya, who was raised in Texas and Lebanon and attended French schools for several years, the multilingual landscape is a reflection of her own relationship to expression.
“It’s more difficult to stick to one language,” she said.