Disturbing language inbalance

Disturbing you may say the least, when walking around the streets around the capital of Europe. In a country where you would think people would be able to speak at least one of the main languages, it is incredible lots of people are not able to speak Dutch, French or German in the country but also not in the region where they live.
For the Flemish regions it is really disastrous. It has been noted that one-third of people living in the Flemish municipalities in the surroundings of Brussels are unable to speak Dutch. The belt of Flemish municipalities surrounding the Brussels-Capital Region are collectively known as de Rand, or the periphery. Normally you would expect citizens living for a few years in a region to speak at least a few words of the language spoken in that region.

Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA), the minister responsible for issues concerning de Rand, an area that includes cities popular with both French-speaking Belgians and ex-pats such as Tervuren (pictured), Drogenbos and Sint-Genesius-Rode, could only tell the Flemish Parliament that there can not be found enough people speaking the language of the region

Living myself near Tervuren, Wezenbeek-Oppem and Overijse I also have to ascertane that there are even shopkeepers who can not speak the language of the region properly and some even do no effort to speak Dutch or to try to understand it.

Weyts who presented the latest findings of the Taalbarometer, a survey that measures language competence in the region, described the current situation as “disturbing”, saying that it was about more than just language.

“The basic problem is a social one,”

he said.

“It goes to the heart of the social fabric in de Rand.”

But we do not only see this in Flemish regions. French and German regions also have lots of immigrants or ex-pats who do not really try to come closer to the inhabitants of the region, and mostly clit together or gang up, creating language and folks ghettos.

Though the report about the Rand did not seem so bad, having found that Dutch was the language most spoken at home, with 45% of people using it, but that French was understood by the largest percentage of people. The survey also showed that 67% of those who spoke French at home sent their children to a French-speaking school, while just 19% went to a Dutch-language school.

When I taught in the Brussels region I was confronted with too many pupils who did not understand Dutch and even could not speak French properly and kept speaking Arabic, Moroccan and Spanish with each other, though they preferred to go to a Flemish school because having it a better name

Weyts was also concerned by the report’s findings that 82% of French speakers wanted de Rand, which is geographically located in Flanders and officially Dutch-speaking, to become a bilingual entity.

Flanders can not allow such a thing and should be firm in demanding Dutch to be the main language. The Flemish government should take care that the region stays protected as Flemish territory. The national government also should respect the old borders and the original population which belonged to the Low Countries and spoke Flemish, Dutch and French, but consider themselves Flemish. Because the variety in the Flemish dialects the governments should demand everybody to learn proper Belgian or general Dutch, which was called in the previous century Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands (General Civilized Dutch) or ABN.


About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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4 Responses to Disturbing language inbalance

  1. Marcus Ampe says:

    Nearly 3,380 expats have registered for Dutch language classes this year at the Huis van het Nederlands (House of Dutch) in Brussels. The statistics were provided by Flemish minister for Brussels, Sven Gatz.

    The total number of Dutch language students in the capital is 16,660, meaning about one in five are expats – defined as persons with a foreign nationality and an income through employment. If those without a job are taken into account, expats make up more than 23% of the students at Huis van het Nederlands.

    In its 11 years, the Brussels’ House of Dutch has seen its group of expats grow steadily. Five years ago, they made up about 16% of the new students, a number that rose to 20% last year and now to more than 23%.

    “EU citizens here in Brussels see Dutch mainly as an extra asset on the labour market, as they clearly experience that Brussels is a multilingual city,” said Gunther Van Neste, director of Huis van het Nederlands. “They often look for new career opportunities outside the EU institutions, such as on the national labour market.”


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