The Kingdom of Belgium is a country belonging to Europe, a member of the European Union, whose capital is Brussels. It is in 77th place in terms of population (11.4 million inhabitants), 135th in area (30,528 km 2). Its human development index is very high (ranked 22nd) and its official currency is the Euro. It is a member of the Benelux economic union (BE lgium, NE derlands and LUX emburgo). But what language is spoken in Belgium?
What language do they speak in Belgium?
The official languages of Belgium are the following three:
- Flemish (59% = 6.7 million) , a variation of Dutch, which is spoken in the northern part of the country (a region bordering the Netherlands).
- French (40% = 4.6 million) , which is spoken in the south (border region with France).
- The German (1% = 0.1 million) in a small area east of Liège bordering Germany.
Bilingualism is far more popular for Flemish, as 60% of them speak French, while Walloons barely know Flemish (20%), giving a total bilingual population of 65% (7.4 million). The only place where both languages are official is in Brussels.
The most common minority languages are Italian, Arabic, Turkish and Spanish. According to the European barometer, 38% (4.3 million) of the Belgian population speak English as a foreign language.
Map of official languages of Belgium
Despite the fact that Wallonia has a larger area than Flanders (more than 3,000 km2), it has almost twice as many inhabitants (approximately 3 million more), giving rise to a larger population with Flemish as their native language, its capital being Namur.. The German-speaking community lives east of Liège, with its capital in Eupen.
The only region with a mixture of the two predominant languages is the capital, Brussels, although French predominates. It has a population of more than 1 million inhabitants in just 161 km 2, and it is the financial and business center of the country, where the European Parliament is located. Here, in its Parlamentarium visitor center, you can go through the history of both Parliament and the European Union in the 23 official languages of said union plus sign language.
The Flemish language
Flemish (vlaams) is a dialect of Dutch (language of Holland, Netherlands), which is spoken in the northern Belgian region, in Flanders, by 59% (6.7 million) of the Belgian population, then it is the most widely spoken across the country. The main dialects are Bravant, West and East Flemish, and Limburgish. All of these are spoken across the Dutch border as well, with the exception of West Flemish which is spoken in the French part of Flanders.
These Flemish dialects have adopted much more vocabulary from French and other Romance languages through mutual cultural exchanges over the course of history compared to other Dutch dialects. Because of this, these are not always intelligible outside the borders of Flanders. Words that are unique to Belgian Dutch are called Belgicisms.
The French language
French (français) is the second most common language, with 40% of the population (about 4.6 million), and is spoken in the Wallonia region, as well as in Brussels (which belongs to Flanders). Almost all the inhabitants of Brussels speak this language, since 50% are native speakers and 45% use it as a lingua franca.
The similarities between Belgian French and Standard Parisian French are almost identical, differing slightly on some points of vocabulary, pronunciation and semantics.
The German language
German (Deutsch) is the least prevalent of the official languages, since it is spoken by less than 1% of the population (about 77,000 inhabitants). Its speakers reside in the area that the German Empire ceded to Belgium in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, at the conclusion of the First World War. This region was re-annexed to Nazi Germany in 1940 when they invaded the country; however, it was returned when World War II ended.
The language used by the authorities, administration, army and education is determined by the courts.
In what language do they show the train information?
The policy of the Belgian national railway company is to display train information in the language of the region. For example, if we travel from Antwerp (Flemish part) to Charleroi (Francophone part), the announcements are made first in Flemish, then in French and Flemish (in Brussels) and later only in French.
This forces train travelers to be informed of the names of the destinations in both languages. Ticket reviewers are required to be bilingual, as they must be able to respond in both languages. At international stations, such as Brussels Airport, information is additionally displayed in German and English.
What language do the road signs write in?
As in railway information, destinations are only required to be written in the local language, forcing drivers to know the final destination bilingually. For example, on the famous European route E40, on the way to Liège (French part), travelers heading from the Flemish part (west) will see Luik written, while those coming from the German part (east) will see Lüttich, and once they enter the francophone zone, they will be able to read Liège.
What language do they speak in the soccer team?
To avoid political conflicts, and knowing that not all footballers have a common official language, English is used. There are even players who know up to 6 languages, as is the case of striker Lukaku, who is fluent in English, French, Flemish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili.
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