What Languages Are Spoken in Belgium?

What Languages Are Spoken in Belgium?

Do you like chocolate?

Yes, we know you adore chocolate. Who doesn’t?

And which chocolate is among the best ones, the one that makes you can’t sleep if you have it hidden in the kitchen?

Belgian chocolate, of course.

Yes, Belgium is home to the best chocolates in the world. But not only that. It is the home of fascinating nature, amazing cathedrals, and artistic treasures.

Before you start packing your bags, stop for a moment. 

Do you know the language? If you don’t, how will you speak to the locals?

Okay, body language is acceptable but that’s not the solution.

If you want to meet this country better, you should start with languages.

Do you know the official language? Or how many languages are spoken there?

Luckily for you in this post, we will help you meet the languages in Belgium, sum up your expectations, and decide which one you want to learn. You can learn even two languages at once if you want to.

And now, let’s dive in.

What Languages Are Spoken In Belgium?

This fascinating country is a real mix of different cultures and languages. No wonder why in Belgium there is more than one official language.

Even though Belgians speak far more different languages, officially this country has three recognized official languages. 

So, Belgium’s official languages are Dutch, French, and German.

Interestingly, in the Belgian Constitution, German isn’t declared as one of the official languages. However, the three languages are based on reforms in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Constitution is also available in those three languages; Dutch, French, and German.

The domination of particular languages is divided by regions so Dutch, for example, is dominant in the North, French in the South, and German in the eastern part of the country.

Let’s take a closer look at the languages spoken in Belgium, both official and the other ones.

The Belgian Dutch/Flemish

In the northern part of the country, called Flanders, around half of the population speaks Dutch as their native language.

During the long history, Dutch went in a little different direction which caused the variant of the language to become a little bit different than the one originally spoken in the Netherlands. Today, the Dutch language spoken in Belgium is known as the Flemish language.

The movement in the 19th century that promoted Flemish as one of the recognized languages, after a lot of battle, finally succeeded in it.

Therefore, Flemish is one of the symbols of Belgian culture.

Even though Flemish is one of the Dutch variants, there are, however, some differences:

  • Dutch spoken in the Netherlands has more English influence, while Flemish influenced French a lot.
  • The difference in pronunciation. Many agree that Flemish is softer than Dutch, especially in pronouncing the ‘g’ sound. While in Dutch is pronounced more as a guttural sound, in Flemish, it is more like a hissing sound.
  • Some words are used differently. For example, the word ‘schoon’ means ‘beauty’ in Flemish, while in Dutch, it means ‘clean.’

The Belgian French 

In South Belgium, people mainly use French as their first language. That part of the country is called Wallonia

If we look back at history, there are some documents that save information that this part of the country was under the noble aristocratic french family, House of Valois.

Further, Napoleon ruled these parts in the 18th and 19th centuries, making it the part with the French-speaking population.

Therefore, French remained as one of the dominantly spoken languages in Belgium, not only in this part of the country but in other parts as well. It is estimated that more than 36% of the Belgian population speaks French as their primary language.

Even though it is the same language, Belgium is one of the French-speaking countries where its variant is considered as the major ones.

French students, don’t be discouraged if you speak ‘only’ standard French. With a little adaptation, you can succeed in fluently speaking Belgian French.

Here are some differences between the standard language and the Belgian French.

  • Pronunciation. The most apparent difference is in the ‘r’ sound. We know that a typical French ‘r’ is pronounced with the back of your throat. Well, Belgian French do that a bit stronger. It’s similar to pronouncing this sound between American English and British English.
  • Numbers. In standard French, numbers above 70 are used a bit unusually. Therefore, for 70, you use ‘soixante-dix,’ which is, literally, ‘sixty and ten;’ for 90, you say ‘quatre-vingt-dix,’ which is ‘four and twenty and ten.’ In Belgian French, these numbers follow the logic as the previous numbers. For example, 70 is septante and 90 is ‘nonante.’ Interestingly, 80 is used the same in both variants. It’s ‘quatre-vingt,’ which is ‘four-twenty.’
  • Vocabulary. Certain words are used differently, such as using ‘savoir’ and ‘pouvoir.’ the first verb means ‘to know,’ and the second ‘to be able.’ In Belgian French, ‘savoir’ is used in cases where you would use ‘pouvoir’ in the standard variant.

The German Language

And we’ve come to the third official language in Belgium, the German language

It is spoken in the eastern part of the country, around the border with Germany.

It is estimated that around half of the Belgian people speak German as their native language, while 20% of them speak it as their second language.

Looking back at the history, the battle and efforts for the German to become part of the country’s language was long. 

In the 18th century, the eastern part of the country was controlled by France, but after the Battle of Liege in 1914, the Germans won the battle. After World War I, they gained a German community in Belgium and slowly became one of the official languages.

Interestingly, there are no differences between the German spoken in Belgium and the standard variant. Perhaps there are some words Belgians would use differently due to French and Dutch influence, but even those words are only a few. Therefore, if you are a German student, you are at advantage to communicate with the locals in the eastern part of the country.

Languages Spoken In the City of Brussels

Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and the largest city in the country.

The population of the city and the entire Brussels-Capital region are mainly bilingual.

The languages they speak at a native level are Dutch and French.

However, French is the dominant language in Brussels. Almost 80% of the population are native francophones.

Even though French is more dominant, Dutch influence is still noticed, especially professionally, where speaking both of the languages is mandatory.

Minority Languages Related to French

You didn’t think that one country as Belgium has only three languages to offer?

No way!

There are many other minority languages worth mentioning.

Minority languages that are related to French are Champenois, Lorrain, Picard, and Wallon.

Champenois is spoken mainly in Namur province as well as in Champagne, the province in France.

Lorrain native speakers are mainly located in the southeastern part of the country, mainly in town Gaume. This language is considered as a ‘bridge’ between French and Breton.

The Picard language is spoken in the Picardy region, but, unfortunately, like Champenois, is classified as endangered.

The Walloon language is part of the Romance language family, besides being spoken in eastern and southern Belgium, it is also spoken in Brussels.

Minority Languages From The Western Germanic Branch

Variants of the languages from the western Germanic language family spoken in Belgium are Low Dietsch, Moselle Franconian, Ripuarian, Southeast Limburgish, and Yiddish.

The closest language to the Moselle Franconian is Luxembourgish but also related to the other named languages as well.

Ripuarian is spoken mainly in Liege, while Low Dietsch is spoken in Duchy of Limburg. Southeast Limburgish native speakers live in the northeastern part of Belgium.

The native language of many Jewish people who live mainly in Antwerp, the second-largest city in the country, Yiddish, is spoken for more than 750 years in Belgium. The language is still written with Hebrew alphabet and even though today many people from the Jewish community speak French, Dutch or German, the Yiddish language still plays the dominant role in their culture.

Other European And Non-European Languages Spoken in Belgium

With the 21st century, many borders and boundaries don’t exist any longer, maybe not literally but inhumanly meaning.

People are free to go and wherever they want, without having second thoughts.

As one of the modern countries, Belgium follows all the latest things in the world.

Therefore, it is one of the countries that permitted immigrants coming from Europe, Africa, as well as Asia.

That resulted in a linguistic mix of many other European and non- European languages.

Therefore, today in Belgium, you can often hear native speakers of the following languages:

  • Portuguese
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Polish
  • English
  • Greek
  • Arabic
  • Turkish

All this means that Belgium, as well as Brussels, become a true mix of many different cultures and languages.

Final Thoughts

As you can see no matter if you’ve already started learning French or Dutch, or perhaps German, any of these languages can be useful in Belgium.

That, however, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to learn other languages that are spoken in Belgium. On the contrary, knowing them can only open you to different doors.

 

But, before you go that far, let’s first start learning the language with professional tutors and practicing to speak. Then, we can easily pack our bags and fly off to Belgium.

What languages are spoken in Belgium?

The Belgian Dutch/Flemish, The Belgian French, The German Language, Languages Spoken In the City of Brussels, Minority Languages Related to French, Minority Languages From The Western Germanic Branch, Other European And Non-European Languages Spoken in Belgium

What languages are spoken in Brussels?

Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and the largest city in the country. The population of the city and the entire Brussels-Capital region are mainly bilingual. The languages they speak at a native level are Dutch and French. However, French is the dominant language in Brussels. Almost 80% of the population are native francophones. Even though French is more dominant, Dutch influence is still noticed, especially professionally, where speaking both of the languages is mandatory.

What European and Non-European languages are spoken in Belgium?

With the 21st century, many borders and boundaries don’t exist any longer, maybe not literally but inhumanly meaning. People are free to go and wherever they want, without having second thoughts. As one of the modern countries, Belgium follows all the latest things in the world. Therefore, it is one of the countries that permitted immigrants coming from Europe, Africa, as well as Asia. That resulted in a linguistic mix of many other European and non- European languages. Therefore, today in Belgium, you can often hear native speakers of the following languages: Portuguese Italian Spanish Polish English Greek Arabic Turkish All this means that Belgium, as well as Brussels, become a true mix of many different cultures and languages.

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