The ‘baffling’ language of Belgium


béguinage of Lierre / begijnhof van Lier, Flanders - Belgium by e's

A linguistic dilemma

Hello hoe u bent? Bonjour comment allez vous? It’s the traveller’s worst nightmare; you have just sat down next to an attractive looking stranger and committed one of the worst faux pas- or Valse Stappen – in modern Belgium.

Mistaking a Flamand for a Walloon can be as socially mortifying as dunking your chips in ketchup rather than mayonnaise in these parts; the Belgians are fiercely proud of their linguistic peculiarities.

Not only do you have to worry about the two main languages, French and Dutch, but head out into the province of Liege and you could find yourself in a village where the only language spoken in German. Fluch!

What are you supposed to do, buy three separate phrase books for one trip? If I want to visit the famous ‘Chip Museum‘ is that the pommes-frite or the friet?

This eccentricity extends to their political parties too. Can you imagine? Every David Cameron or Gordon Brown has a doppelganger who speaks the opposing language, no wonder they brew so much beer.

But rest assured fellow travellers, this refusal to speak each other’s tongue has one fantastic benefit for us, the universal tool for cross Belgian dialogue these days is good old English. Tickety-boo then, as they say on the playing fields of Eton.

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