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Thread: Belgium languages

  1. #1
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    Belgium languages

    Good evening everybody,

    I was wondering if people from Flemish Belgium and Wallon Belgium understood each other: I mean I know there is no official language but do they both understand German, French and Dutch?

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    Re: Belgium languages

    No, they don't.

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by delf06 View Post
    Good evening everybody,

    I was wondering if people from Flemish Belgium and Wallon Belgium understood each other: I mean I know there is no official language but do they both understand German, French and Dutch?
    What do you mean with "no official language"? They have! The three ones you mentioned. No guarantee, that everyone speaks all three of them.
    However, I am positively surprised by people in and around Bruxelles/Brussels: Many people - sometimes even children as young as around 9 or 10 speak French and Dutch. Or maybe expecially children!!!???

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Flemish is what is spoken in Belgium, not Dutch.
    And I'm surprised to hear that German would be an official language in Belgium. Are you sure of this, Sepia?
    ...Ferme ni plus ni moins que l'étoile du nord.

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by JeanDeSponde View Post
    Flemish is what is spoken in Belgium, not Dutch.
    And I'm surprised to hear that German would be an official language in Belgium. Are you sure of this, Sepia?
    Hi,

    My French teacher, who is from Belgium, told me so. There is a small region on the East where German is the official language. Regarding, the original question, she told me that in the past, more or less they could understand each other, I mean, everybody knew at least a bit of the other language, but now it doesn´t seem to happen, but in Brussels which is bilingual region.

    Cheers.

    Ant
    In my restless dreams, I see that town

  6. #6
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Antpax View Post
    My French teacher, who is from Belgium, told me so. There is a small region on the East where German is the official language.
    Every day's a learning day! Thanks for teaching me this.
    ...Ferme ni plus ni moins que l'étoile du nord.

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by JeanDeSponde View Post
    Every day's a learning day! Thanks for teaching me this.
    My pleasure. Il n´y a pas de quoi.

    Ant
    In my restless dreams, I see that town

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by JeanDeSponde View Post
    Flemish is what is spoken in Belgium, not Dutch.
    No. It's Dutch language.

    Check http://taalunieversum.org/taal/vragen/antwoord/4/

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by federicoft View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by JeanDeSponde View Post
    Flemish is what is spoken in Belgium, not Dutch.
    No. It's Dutch language.
    Bad day for me, I guess. Apologies...
    ...Ferme ni plus ni moins que l'étoile du nord.

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Antpax View Post
    I don´t agree with federicoft, and WR dictionary doesn´t too. In Spanish Flemish (flamenco) is spoken in Belgium and Dutch (Neerlandés) in Netherlands, but actually they are almost the same language.
    It's not something which varies according to your native language.

    Dutch is the official language of Flanders, as it is stated by Belgian and Flemish laws. Its norm is the usage as in the Netherlands, and it is regulated by the same institution.

    Flemish is just the name of the local, non-official, dialect of Dutch. Claiming it is a separate language compared to Dutch is highly offensive.

  11. #11
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Hi,

    Various opinions on Dutch (Nederlands) and Flemish (Vlaams) can be found here on WR:
    - Dutch and Flemish revisted
    - Flemish versus French
    - Vlaams en Nederlands
    - Flemish/Dutch
    - and many many more.

    PS:
    In Spanish Flemish (flamenco) is spoken in Belgium and Dutch (Neerlandés) in Netherlands, but actually they are almost the same language.
    And it doesn't occur to you that the Spanish usage could be -- to put it mildly -- slightly imprecise? :-)
    If you open your mind too much, your brain might fall out.

  12. #12
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank06 View Post
    Hi,

    Various opinions on Dutch (Nederlands) and Flemish (Vlaams) can be found here on WR:
    - Dutch and Flemish revisted
    - Flemish versus French
    - Vlaams en Nederlands
    - Flemish/Dutch
    - and many many more.

    PS:

    And it doesn't occur to you that the Spanish usage could be -- to put it mildly -- slightly imprecise? :-)
    Certainly it is. You are right, have I offend anyone I do apology. I´ll delete it.

    Cheers.

    Ant
    In my restless dreams, I see that town

  13. #13
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Hi,
    Quote Originally Posted by federicoft View Post
    Dutch is the official language of Flanders, as it is stated by Belgian and Flemish laws. Its norm is the usage as in the Netherlands, and it is regulated by the same institution.
    Agreed!
    But only the spelling is really regulated. Grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary is not regulated by any instance.

    Flemish is just the name of the local, non-official, dialect of Dutch. Claiming it is a separate language compared to Dutch is highly offensive.
    I don't think a lot of people would be offended... :-)

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Last edited by Frank06; 8th October 2008 at 3:39 PM.
    If you open your mind too much, your brain might fall out.

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    Re: Belgium languages

    Well, thank you guys for all your answers. Such a difficult and confusing point to discuss! To answer Sepia (post 3), I wanted to say that there is not one language spoken all over the country, like in France for example where we have local dialects but one official language which is French. I mean I knew that the 3 languages are set on an equal footing.

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    Re: Belgium languages

    I remember reading in one of the war museums in Flanders that in 1914 the officers spoke Walloon while the ranks spoke Flemish. Because the languages were mutually unintelligible, the troops couldn't understand their officers' orders, which resulted in chaos and the quick defeat of the Belgian army.
    Amo ergo Sum. My words speak for themselves. Between the lines you will find nothing but blank spaces.

  16. #16
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    Re: Belgium languages

    (this is going to be a long post for such a small country )

    Quote Originally Posted by Sepia View Post
    Or maybe expecially children!!!???
    Yes. As you probably know, most people in Brussels speak French. That is why virtually all Dutch speaking citizens also know French and will normally use that language when they address someone they don't know. The last few years more and more French speaking citizens send their children to schools in which Dutch is the language of instruction. There are many reasons for this, the most important one of which is probably the fact that Flemish schools in Brussels have a better reputation than the francophone ones (that are not fully 'booked'), mainly because of the larger amount of pupils from lower social backgrounds (often immigrants with linguistic problems as well). This turning to Dutch speaking schools of young bruxellois is not a good thing for the French speaking schools and their pupils, their level declines even more, and the level in the Flemish schools declines as well because they have pupil that don't fully master the language of instruction. But anyway, we're talking about languages here, and in that respect the described evolution does have an advantage of course: many many originally French speaking boys and girls end up being bilingual (many continue higher education in Dutch, although the level of Flemish universities isn't supposed to be better than the level of the francophone ones).

    Quote Originally Posted by delf06 View Post
    I wanted to say that there is not one language spoken all over the country, like in France for example where we have local dialects but one official language which is French. I mean I knew that the 3 languages are set on an equal footing.
    As have been mentioned before, Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. The equal footing is relative. Let me try to explain the completely insane structure of our very little federal state and its too many governments . (What follows will be a explanation of the first four articles of the Belgian Constitution.)

    The Kingdom of Belgium is a federal state consisting of subnational states (Dutch deelstaat, French état fédéré) on two levels. On one level there are regions (Dutch gewesten, French régions) that are responsible for the traditional administrative, governmental stuff like economy, environment, road networks and the like. There are three Belgian regions: the Flemish Region (het Vlaams Gewest), the Walloon Region (la Région walonne) and the Brussels-Capital Region (het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest / la Région de Bruxelles-Capital). These regions (as the name suggests) are bound in territory. Here is a map.

    On another level of subnational states, there are communities (Dutch gemeenschappen, French communautés). Their responsabilities concern 'cultural' stuff: a.o. culture (duh), education, and.. language. There are three communities (please note that their names are not at all equivalents!): there's the Flemish Community (de Vlaamse Gemeenschap), the French Community (la Communauté Française) and the German speaking Community (die Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft). The communities themselves don't really have boundaries, but they do in the sense that there are official language areas that define their power scope so to say. Here is a map; as you can see Brussels is a bilingual language area so both the Flemish and French Communities have responsabilities and 'overlap' in the territory that is ruled by the government of the Brussels-Capital Region on another level.

    Of course there is also a federal government and parliament that rules the entire territory and decides on national matters (strangely enough, it is pretty well described what are the responsabilities of which administration -- which matter should be the responsability of which administration obviously remains a controversial issue though.)

    Did you count well? Theoretically, Belgium should have seven parliaments and seven governments! We have six: the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community have merged (and there are plans to do the same with the Walloon Region and the French Community). (Six!!! for 10 million Belgians and 30000 km². )

    Some strange aspects of this situation:
    - The Brussels government isn't responsable for education, the communities are. Education in Flanders is in Dutch, in Wallonia it is in French. In Brussels, people can choose between one of those, but there are no bilingual 'Brussels' schools.
    - Dutch is an official language in Brussels although there are more families where the home language is Arabic or English. These are not official. To get a good job in the capital, you should be able to speak Dutch!
    - Over the country, Arabic is spoken way more (geographically distributed) than German. German has the status of official language, Arabic has not.
    - With a government of 4 ministers and a parliament of 25 representatives, the German speaking Community of Belgium is probably the best protected minority in the world. They're less than 100 000. As such, they don't quarrel when it comes to reforms of the federal state - rightly so.

    Quote Originally Posted by delf06 View Post
    I was wondering if people from Flemish Belgium and Wallon Belgium understood each other: I mean I know there is no official language but do they both understand German, French and Dutch?
    About Belgians' knowledge of languages:
    People are generally not bilingually raised so it often comes down to education. I explained the current situation for Brussels with many French speaking people getting perfectly bilingual. In Flanders, starting from the age of 10, children have French as their first second language, four years later they also get English and depending on the pupil's choices, he or she can be taught German (or sometimes Spanish) too. (This is all before going to college, obviously..) But in Brussels, children in Dutch speaking schools are taught French right from the start (at the age of 6)!

    In Wallonia (corrigez-moi si je me trompe..), there is no obligatory second language learning in primary school. In secondary school, from the age of 12, children should choose a first second language (options English and Dutch), later they can choose a second.

    The last few years more and more francophone parents want their children to learn Dutch and this works: Dutch proficiency in the South is getting better. In the North, the French proficiency of the pupils (and especially of people that are out of school..) seems to get worse.

    As for the German speaking Community: I don't know about their educational system, but most are bilingual German-French and although I'm not sure whether many do speak Dutch, learning it shouldn't be really difficult for them anyway. (I know that the minister-president of the German speaking Community, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, is very proficient in all three of the official languages..)

    Astemblief..
    Last edited by Joannes; 8th October 2008 at 8:07 PM. Reason: errors

  17. #17
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Hi,
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Beach View Post
    I remember reading in one of the war museums in Flanders that in 1914 the officers spoke Walloon while the ranks spoke Flemish.
    You mean probably mean French and Dutch? The officers where high classed people, so they certainly didn't speak one of the Walloon tongues.
    By the way, the 'average' Walloon soldiers also had a lot of problems understanding the 'standard' French. And they weren't treated that much better than the 'average' Flemish soldiers. I don't know who originally came up with that myth, but it must have been somebody who thinks that the Flemish soldiers were a buch of complete morons, for not understanding a handful basic orders in French.

    Because the languages were mutually unintelligible, the troops couldn't understand their officers' orders, which resulted in chaos and the quick defeat of the Belgian army.
    Wow, is this myth still kept alive in the War Museums?
    The works of Sophie De Schaepdrijver are quite clarifying what this myth is concerned. She's did quite some research on the "Great War" and published quite some books and articles on it. Since she currently works for the Pennsylvania State University, I'll search for something to illustrate her claims (in English).

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Last edited by Frank06; 8th October 2008 at 10:59 PM.
    If you open your mind too much, your brain might fall out.

  18. #18
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Frank, I accept what you say. I was merely reporting what I read and, being a careful kind of chappy, I made a point of quoting my source!

    Casting my mind back, I'm sure it was the official museum at Ypres. I visited it in about 2004.
    Amo ergo Sum. My words speak for themselves. Between the lines you will find nothing but blank spaces.

  19. #19
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Kevin,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Beach View Post
    Frank, I accept what you say. I was merely reporting what I read and, being a careful kind of chappy, I made a point of quoting my source! Casting my mind back, I'm sure it was the official museum at Ypres. I visited it in about 2004.
    I hope you didn't take it personally! In no way did I intend to tackle you on this issue. But yes, I am genuinely surprised that this kind of myths is still told in the War Museum.
    In mean time, I found an article here which refers to the works of De Schaepdrijver (from a Flemish newspaper, not the study itself). I am not sure in how far you read Dutch or French, but I'll try to find something that illustrates her claims in English.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Last edited by Frank06; 8th October 2008 at 11:44 PM.
    If you open your mind too much, your brain might fall out.

  20. #20
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    Re: Belgium languages

    Waou, you're amazing you people! Thank you so much for sheding light on this strange but fascinating country

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