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The Kingdom of Belgiummarker has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. A number of non-official, minority languages are spoken as well.

Official languages

Dutch



Close to 60% of the country's population speaks Dutch as their primary (Belgian) language. Though the standard form of Dutch used in Belgium is almost identical to that spoken in the Netherlands and the different dialects spread across the border, it is often colloquially called "Flemish".

Dutch is the official language of the Flemish Community and the Flemish Regionmarker (merged to Flanders) and, along with French, an official language of the Brussels-Capital Regionmarker. The main Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium are Brabantian, West Flemish, East Flemish and Limburgish (all four are spoken across the border in the Netherlands as well). Some sub-dialects may be quite distant from standard Dutch and not be readily intelligible for other Dutch-speakers. Words which are unique to Belgian Dutch are called belgicisms (as are words used primarily in Belgian French). The original Brabantian dialect of Brusselsmarker has been heavily influenced by French, and in most cases replaced by it during the Frenchification of Brussels.

French

The second-most spoken primary (Belgian) language, used natively by 40% of the population, is French. It is the official language of the French Community (which, like the Flemish Community, is a political entity), the dominant language in Walloniamarker (having also a small German-speaking Community) as well as the Brussels-Capital Regionmarker. Almost all of the inhabitants of the Capital region are able to speak French as either their primary language (50%) or as a lingua franca (45%). There are also many Flemish people that are able to speak French as a second language. Belgian French is in most respects identical to standard, Parisian French, but differs in some points of vocabulary, pronunciation, and semantics. Ma vie en rose and Man Bites Dog are important Belgian films in the French language.

German

German is the least prevalent official language in Belgium, spoken natively by less than 1% of the population. The German-speaking Community of Belgium numbers 71,000, residing in an area of Belgium that ceded by the former German Empiremarker as part of the Treaty of Versailles, which concluded World War I. In 1940, Nazi Germany re-annexed the region following its invasion of Belgium during World War II.

Multilingualism

In 2006, the Université Catholique de Louvainmarker, the country's largest French-speaking university, published a report with the introduction (here translated): "This issue of Regards économiques is devoted to the demand for knowledge of languages in Belgium and in its three regions (Brussels, Flanders, Wallonia). The surveys show that Flanders is clearly more multilingual, which is without doubt a well known fact, but the difference is considerable : whereas 59% and 53% of the Flemings know French or English respectively, only 19% and 17% of the Walloons know Dutch or English. The measures advocated by the Marshall Plan go towards the proper direction, but are without doubt very insufficient to fully overcome the lag." (This particular 2006–2009 'Marshall Plan' was devised in 2004 and published in 2005 to uplift the Walloon economy.) Within the report, professors in economics Ginsburgh and Weber further show that of the Brussels' residents, 95% declared they can speak French, 59% Dutch, and 41% know the non-local English. Of those under the age of forty, 59% in Flanders declared that they could speak all three, along with 10% in Wallonia and 28% in Brussels. In each region, Belgium's third official language, German, is notably less known than those.

Non-official languages

An historical linguistic map of Wallonia, before French became the dominant language
In addition to the three official languages, other languages have historically been spoken in what is now Belgium, particularly in Walloniamarker, where French became dominant only relatively recently.

Walloon

Walloon is the historical language of southern Belgium, and most of the areas where French is now spoken were Walloon-speaking. It is also the traditional national language of the Walloons. Though it has been recognized, like other "indigenous languages" in Belgium, since 1990, it is mainly spoken by older people, though younger Walloons may claim some knowledge. It is mainly used in rural regions, and is used in theaters and literature, though not in schools.

Picard

Another traditional language of the region, Picard, was recognized by the government of the French Community in 1990. Most of its speakers live in France, though some are found in western portions of Wallonia.

Champenois

Champenois was also legally recognized in 1990. It is mainly spoken in Champagne, France, though it also has some speakers in Wallonia.

Lorrain

Like the other indigenous languages, Lorrain was recognized in 1990. It is mainly spoken in Gaumemarker.

Low Dietsch

Low Dietsch is a transitional Limburgish–Ripuarian language of a number of towns and villages in the north-east of the Belgian province of Liege, such as Gemmenich, Homburg, Montzen and Welkenraedt. It represents the language of the old Duchy of Limburgmarker, that had its historic kernel there. It is acknowledged as an internal regional language by the Walloon authority since 1992.

Yiddish

Yiddish is spoken by the 20,000 Orthodox Jews living in Antwerpmarker. The community there is among the strongest in Europe, and one of the few Jewish communities worldwide in which Yiddish remains the dominant language (others include Kiryas Joel, New Yorkmarker, and similar Orthodox neighborhoods in the United States, Londonmarker, Parismarker, and Israelmarker).

Other minority and foreign languages

Languages spoken by residents of foreign ancestry include Arabic, Spanish, Turkish, Portuguese, Italian and Polish.

See also



References

  1. Footnote: Of the inhabitants of Belgium, roughly 59% belong to the Flemish Community, 40% to the French Community and 1% to the German-speaking Community, though these figures relating to official Belgian languages include unknown numbers of immigrants and their children speaking a foreign language as primary language, and of Belgian regional migrants which may be assumed to largely balance one another for natively French and Dutch speakers.
  2. — The linguistic situation in Belgium (and in particular various estimations of the population speaking French and Dutch in Brussels) is discussed in detail.
  3. (Summary: – The article shows the interest in the Ginsburg-Weber report, by the French-language Belgian newspaper Le Soir and the Algemeen Dagblad in the Netherlands)
  4. – Reaction on the Ginsburgh-Weber report;





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