Language & Cultural Barriers between
French Speakers and Dutch Speakers
Threaten to Break Up Belgium

Dutch to English Legal Translation Services

An article in The Washington Post explores a new flare-up of old tensions between French- and Dutch-speaking populations of Belgium. Many of these tensions spring up from the linguistic, cultural, and political obstacles (such as Flemish demands for greater autonomy), and cannot be easily overcome even with the help of professional French to English legal language translation service, or with the help of professional Dutch to English legal language translation service.

Belgium has a very diverse multilingual population, and the three “official” languages are Dutch, German, and French. Dutch (colloquially called Flemish) is spoken by about 60 % of the country’s population. It is the official language of the Flemish Community and the Flemish Region (known as Flanders), in the north.

French is spoken by 40% of the country’s population. It is the official language of the French Community and the dominant language of Wallonia, in the south.


The excerpts below from the above-mentioned article shed more light on the issues surrounding the Flemish secessionist movement, and the future of Belgium:

Chief among Flemish grievances is the economy. Flemings resent the southward transfer of massive subsidies from the prosperous north. They also disagree with Wallonia’s more socialized, welfare-model approach. Once the coal and steel powerhouse of the country, the French-speaking zone now has approximately double the unemployment of the north.

Many Flemings see the safeguarding of Flemish culture and language as a reversal of a historic injustice. French was the language of public official life until the 1960s, when the country settled on its current system of linguistic zones.

But that delicate system is being tested as Brussels grows and its French-speaking population fans out into Flemish zones. Peter Dejaeghar, spokesman for the Flemish minister responsible for language decrees, sees in this population spread an “imperial” tendency to “Gallicize” Flanders.

In three of the six municipalities of Flanders around Brussels that officially permit use of both languages [Dutch and French], mayors who were elected in October 2006 have been denied official acceptance by the Flemish parliament because they circulated electoral notices in French to their French-majority constituencies. The mayors contend this violates the government’s own rules.

So for now Belgium remains one, officially at least — Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia, with the officially bilingual and thriving cosmopolitan capital, Brussels, in the middle.

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