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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Languages of Belgium

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hello everyone welcome to the land focus

Channel and my name is Paul today's

topic is the languages of Belgium when

most people think of Belgium they think

of Belgian chocolate Belgian waffles

Belgian beer and things like that but

there is much more to Belgium than those

things including a very interesting

linguistic situation first let's get

some geographic perspective Belgium is

located in Western Europe bordering

France to the south and southwest

Netherlands to the north and northeast

Germany to the east and Luxembourg to

the southeast this geographic location

is reflected in Belgium's linguistic

diversity Belgium has three official

languages Dutch which has historically

been spoken by the Flemish people French

which has historically been spoken by

the Walloon people and German these

three languages ended up being a part of

this one country because of Belgium's

history the Low Countries which include

Belgium the Netherlands and Luxembourg

have been strategically important

throughout the ages the Low Countries

were ruled by a succession of rulers

eventually coming under the rule of the

Spanish Empire in 1556 and became

referred to as Spanish Netherlands the

Dutch Revolt of 1568 to 1581 resulted in

the independence of the northern

provinces which became the Dutch

Republic which separated the Dutch from

Belgium even though the northern part of

Belgium spoke the same language with

different dialects of course in 1713

after the Spanish war of succession the

Spanish Netherlands the southern part -

the Dutch Republic came under Austrian

control then in 1794 it came under

French control and soon after that the

Dutch Republic was also brought under

French control after Napoleon's defeat

in the Napoleonic Wars the United

Kingdom of the Netherlands was created

in 1815 which included present-day

Netherlands Belgium as well as

Luxembourg after the Belgian revolution

of 1830 the kingdom of Belgium was

created with the

support of France at first belgium was a

single state with one official language

French even though the majority of

people were not French speakers in the

20th century a series of changes

resulted in a federal system with three

official languages Dutch has spoken as a

native language by around fifty five

percent of the population and by around

13% of the population as a second

language French is spoken as a native

language by approximately 36% of the

population with about 45% of the

population speaking it as a second

language German is much less widely

spoken as a native language than the

other two by less than one percent but

around 22% of the population speak it as

a Second Language the three official

languages are generally concentrated in

distinct linguistic areas Dutch is the

primary language of the Flanders region

in the north French is the primary

language of the Wallonia region to the

south with German being the primary

language of some areas of Eastern

Wallonia near the border with Germany

the brussels-capital region is

officially bilingual with dutch and

french being the two languages there are

no official statistics about the number

of speakers of each language in the

capital but it's quite obvious that

french is the predominant language the

belgian federal state consists of three

administrative regions flanders Vilonia

and the brussels-capital region as well

as three federal communities based on

language the Flemish community has

authority in the Flemish provinces and

in the brussels-capital region the

French community has authority and the

Walloon provinces with the exception of

the german-speaking municipalities as

well as in the brussels-capital region

alongside the Flemish community and the

german-speaking community has authority

in the german-speaking municipalities of

the province of liรจge in Wallonia the

area is administered by the

german-speaking community are the areas

given to Belgium by Germany in 1920

under the Treaty of Versailles the

federal communities each have their own

government and Parliament which are

distinct from the regional government

and Parliament the governments of the

communities have power over matters of

culture education health services and

social services that's in contrast with

the regional governments that have power

over matters of economy infrastructure

Town Planning and so on and in the

brussels-capital region the Flemish and

French commune

governments and the regional government

are merged together into one within the

Flanders region most municipalities

offer services only in Dutch in in the

Wallonia region most municipalities

offer services only in French but there

are some municipalities with language

facilities that also offer public

services like schools and courts in

another language as well these

municipalities are typically those

bordering a different linguistic area

administered by a different linguistic

community or bordering the

brussels-capital region there are 12

municipalities in Flanders which offer

services in French six of which have a

french-speaking majority and in

french-speaking Wallonia there are four

municipalities offering services in

Dutch and two more offering services in

German and all of the municipalities in

the german-speaking part of Wallonia

offer services in French and in the

capital region all services are offered

in both French and in Dutch and I should

note that all federal services are

provided in all three official languages

at the national level language varieties

so we know that there are three official

languages with their respective

communities and areas but there's more

to it than that

one of the official languages is Dutch

but is it the same as the Dutch spoken

in the Netherlands well remember that a

language normally consists of a number

of different dialects that are usually

united by a common standard language the

standard form of Dutch used in Belgium

is basically the same as the standard

form used in the Netherlands but the

dialects that people grow up speaking

are different than those spoken in the

Netherlands and they differ quite a lot

from each other as well the dialects of

Dutch spoken and Flanders are often

collectively referred to as Flemish the

main dialect groups are Brabant e'en and

east flemish and west flemish and

limburgish are sometimes included as

well though these are often considered

distinct enough to be separate regional

languages limburgish for example has

some features that are closer to German

than other Dutch dialects for example

personal pronouns that are similar to

the German ones like if myth

dick and so on exactly where to draw the

boundaries of a language and deciding

which dialects are included in that

language is often a tricky question

there's no black and white distinction

between Dutch and Germans but rather

there's a West Germanic dialect

continuum spanning a wide area and

language features gradually change as

you move along the continuum and the

standard language that a dialect is

paired with often for political reasons

is a big factor in what language a

dialect is considered to belong to

of course the promotion of standard

Dutch has caused Flemish dialects to

fade to some extent but some differences

in vocabulary and pronunciation remain

there's also a new variety of Dutch that

has arisen called - Chantal it's

basically a middle ground between

standard Dutch and Flemish dialects but

from a lot of comments I've seen online

it seems like a lot of people dislike

this variety of Dutch they think it

sounds artificial the situation with

French is also interesting standard

French is learned by everyone in the

french-speaking areas but it's paired

with traditional dialects like Walloon

or Malone Piku

Sean Penn Juan and loja which are

arguably separate regional languages

they belong to the long gooey in the

branch of the gallo-romance languages as

standard French does but they are

distinct from it these regional

languages have for the most part been

replaced by standard French and are

mainly spoken by an aging population

particularly in the countryside these

lungs oil in Wallonia have not remained

in use as much as the flemish dialects

in flanders have why is that I think

that's partly because during the period

of French rule when the use of French

was highly encouraged speakers of

closely related regional languages found

it much easier to adapt to French than

the speakers of Flemish dialects in the

north did and maybe because those

languages are so closely related to

French their speakers felt that they

were just making a small adjustment

rather than giving up something but

that's my speculation as is the case

with Dutch and French belgium has a

number of dialects that are considered

to be a part of the german language

alongside standard german the german

dialects of the officially

german-speaking areas are central german

dialects including ripuarian in the

northern part of the area at Moselle

franconian in the south

part of the area these dialects differ

significantly from standard German but

standard German has had an influence on

them resulting in some dialect leveling

meaning that the dialects are not as

different from standard German anymore

and not as different from each other

anymore and speakers of those dialects

use some French vocabulary in their

speech because of the influence of the

surrounding French speakers in the

Wallonia region and I believe the

majority of German speakers are

bilingual and can speak French as well

because Belgium is part of a Germanic

dialect continuum there are a number of

dialects that don't clearly fall under

any of the three official languages one

such language is low dietsch which is a

number of transitional dialects between

limburgish which is often considered a

flemish dialect and the ripuarian

dialect of german it's spoken in a few

towns and villages in the municipality

of upin in the german-speaking part of

liege but rather than simply being

considered a dialect of german it's

unique enough to be considered its own

regional language certain varieties of

low dietsch are very close to certain

varieties of limburgish which is

sometimes considered a flemish dialect a

Dutch dialect but other varieties of low

dietsch are very close to certain

varieties of riparian which are

considered varieties of German

classifying these very similar dialects

as different languages is one of those

confusing and mystifying aspects of

linguistics then there's Luxembourgish

it's spoken in the belgian province of

luxembourg which has the same name as

the neighbouring country even though

it's closely related to the surrounding

Moselle franconi and German dialects

it's not normally considered a dialect

of German that's partly because it has

its own standardised written form and

its speakers are not considered members

of the german-speaking community but

rather speakers of a regional language

the area in which Luxembourgish is

spoken is inside french-speaking

Wallonia where Luxembourgish is

recognized as a regional language but

the use of Luxembourgish has declined in

favour of French much of what I say in

this section will be based on comments

that I've read online written by a

Belgian people and comments I've heard

from Belgian people face-to-face as you

can see from the statistics we looked at

earlier most Belgians can speak at least

two of the official languages at least

to some extent in particular Dutch

speakers can usually

speak some French but according to a lot

of comments that I've read some Dutch

speakers are reluctant to speak French

especially in a Dutch speaking area it's

quite common in bilingual places for

speakers of one language to resent

having to speak the other language if

they feel that their own language isn't

being given equal status French has

traditionally been the higher status

language in Belgium and Dutch speakers

had to learn it in order to advance in

life or to get a better job and that

kind of thing so maybe because of this

sort of historical rivalry there might

be some resistance to speaking French

that's just my impression based on

things I've heard or read and I can't

exactly say for certain and these days

English is becoming much more widely

used as a second language in Flanders

while French has declined some young

people who speak mostly Dutch in

Flanders might speak English when they

encounter a French speaker or when they

visit the bilingual city of Brussels

education in Belgium is different

depending on the linguistic community

that administers that area in Flanders

students begin learning French in the

fifth grade of elementary school and

then begin learning English in seventh

grade and some students take German or

another language later but there are

students who complained that the

teaching methods emphasize grammar and

literacy rather than communication which

leaves them without enough

conversational confidence Vilonia some

French speakers are also bilingual

French Dutch speakers but not as many of

them but in recent decades more French

speakers are learning Dutch because of

the growing economic influence of

Flanders the education system in

Wallonia offers a choice between Dutch

and English many choose Dutch but again

they don't necessarily learn to

communicate that well in the language a

smaller but significant number learn

German but outside of the border areas a

few of them learn it to an advanced

level from what I hear and as in

Flanders English is growing in

popularity in Brussels even though it's

an enclave inside Flanders Brussels is

officially bilingual and while there are

no official counts of who speaks which

language it's an overwhelmingly

french-speaking city with many estimates

saying it's over 90% francophone both

French and Dutch schools are available

and each family can choose which type of

school to send their children to

regardless of what language they speak

at home and at shops and restaurants

staff should be able to speak both

languages at least in theory but that's

a major capital

as the de facto capital of the European

Union Brussels is a very international

and linguistically diverse place many

languages are spoken among the expat

communities with English serving as a

lingua franca alongside French there are

also many immigrants in 2010 about 18%

of the population of Belgium was

foreign-born while in Brussels the

number was around 33% many of these

people and their children are native

speakers of languages other than Dutch

French and German from what I understand

many of these people speak a foreign

language at home one of Belgium's

official languages probably Dutch or

French and in many cases English as well

the german-speaking community because of

their proximity to french-speaking

Wallonia and because french is a

required subject in schools in the

german-speaking community areas most

German speakers can speak French as well

as German and from what I understand

many speak Dutch as well which is

probably helped by the fact that Dutch

and German are closely related media in

Belgium the media in each linguistic

area is dominated by the language of

that region each of the three linguistic

communities has its own public

broadcasting organization which is

responsible for creating content and

administering radio and TV stations and

so on the result is that the members of

each linguistic community are primarily

exposed to only their own language

through the media the notable exception

is brussels where both the flemish

community and the french-speaking

communities public broadcasting

organizations operate belgium is an

interesting case because in some ways it

operates like three separate countries

administered by three different

linguistic communities with their own

governments and the generally limited

interaction between Flanders and

Wallonia reinforces a kind of linguistic

divide or separation but the majority of

people speak two official languages at

least to some extent in some of them

speak three with a lot of people

learning English these days as in many

multilingual Federation's some people

speculate about whether the country will

fracture in two separate countries and

there are disagreements about how to

handle the complex governing of a

federation with three regional

governments and three community

governments based on language in

addition to a federal government I can't

claim to speak for Belgians but just

from the comments that I've read and

heard it seems to me that Belgian people


to find more as Flemish or Walloon or as

german-speaking than as Belgian but they

generally have no strong objection to

this federal system from what I can see

but this kind of situation reminds us

that languages are not just systems of

communication they are also part of

people's identities and of tremendous

importance to people a question of the

day for people from Belgium

what's your native language and to what

extent do you speak to the other

official languages and for other people

let me ask a more general question to

what extent do you see your native

language as part of your identity for me

as an English speaker from Canada my

language is not really a strong part of

my identity it just feels like the

default but I know it's different for a

lot of people around the world how about

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The Description of Languages of Belgium