Do people speak English in Belgium? This is a question we get asked a lot! Belgium is famous for many things. For example, its delicious chocolate, stunning architecture, and of course, its picturesque canals.
What will I learn?
But when it comes to language, things are a little more confusing. Belgium has three official languages – Dutch, French, and German.
Do People Speak English In Belgium?
So, what does that mean for English speakers? Read on to find out everything you need to know about English in Belgium.
In short, the answer is yes! English is somehow spoken in Belgium, especially in Brussels. That said, there are certain areas of the country where English is not as commonly spoken.
Some regions have their own dialects or languages that are more commonly used. Here’s a quick overview of the language situation in Belgium.
The History Of English In Belgium
Belgium has a long and complicated history. Its language situation today clearly reflects this. The country was first inhabited by Celtic tribes before the Romans conquered it in 57 BC.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, a succession of different groups ruled the area.
These groups include the Franks, the Burgundians, the Spanish, and the Austrians. It wasn’t until 1830 that Belgium became an independent country.
All of this history has had an impact on the languages spoken in Belgium today. When the country was part of the Roman Empire, Latin was the dominant language.
However, after the empire fell, Germanic languages such as Dutch and German began to take over. These days, around 60% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch as their first language.
French and German also being widely spoken. As you can imagine, this has led to some confusion when it comes to language!
The Official Languages Of Belgium
As we mentioned before, Belgium has three official languages – Dutch, French, and German. These three languages are in use by the Belgian federal government and have equal status.
This means that all official documents are written in all three languages. The citizens have the right to use any of them when interacting with the government.
In practice, this can be quite confusing! For example, buying a train ticket at a Belgian railway station. You will find that all of the information is written in Dutch, French, and German.
The same goes for road signs – they are usually written in all three languages. However, there is one exception to this rule – Brussels.
Brussels uses French and Dutch as its official languages. This is due to its bilingual history (French and Dutch).
French Vs. Dutch Vs. English
People mostly know only about three official languages: French, Dutch, and German. However, the vast majority of Belgians also speak English. This is why it’s such a popular tourist destination.
In Brussels, the capital city, French and Dutch are spoken equally. However, outside of Brussels, Dutch is the dominant language.
French is the predominant language in the southern part of Belgium. This part borders France. In the eastern part of Belgium near Germany, German is the primary language spoken.
So, what language should you learn if you’re planning a trip to Belgium? For most visitors, learning some basic phrases in both French and Dutch will suffice.
However, if you’re planning to spend most of your time in Brussels, then focus on learning French or Dutch. It depends on which one you feel more comfortable with.
And if you’re planning to visit the eastern part of Belgium, then learning German would be a good idea.
The Most Popular Language In Belgium – English!
Despite having three official languages, English is the most popular language in Belgium! This is thanks to two main factors – globalization and education.
In recent years, international companies are increasingly setting up bases in Belgium. Brussels is the main focus due to its central location in Europe.
Owing to this globalization, many working in these companies are not native Belgians. They have come from all over the world – including English-speaking countries.
In addition to this, English is also compulsory in Belgian schools from a very young age. This is great news for English speakers traveling to or living in Belgium.
Even though you may not be able to speak the local language, you will still be able to get by using English.
However, it is always a good idea to try and learn a few words of Dutch, French, or German. This is especially if you are living in the country for an extended period of time.
What Percentage Of People Speak English In Belgium?
According to some surveys, 39% of Belgians said they spoke English “very well.” 51% said they spoke it “fairly well.”
This means that a large majority of people in Belgium are at least conversational in English.
English is spoken to some extent throughout Belgium. But it’s more commonly spoken in the capital city of Brussels.
This is because Brussels is home to many international organizations. For example, the European Union and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). So if you’re looking to practice your English while in Belgium, Brussels is the place to be.
How Widespread Is English In Belgium?
As one of the six official languages of the European Union, English is widespread in Belgium. Despite the country’s linguistic diversity, it is not as widely spoken as one might expect.
It’s true that English is the official language of the European Union. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is home to the EU’s headquarters. Still, only a minority of Belgian citizens are actually proficient in English.
Education First presented a study in 2012. Only 39% of Belgians surveyed said they were able to hold a conversation in English.
However, French and Dutch are the primary languages spoken in Belgium, with English being a secondary language for many people.
This isn’t to say that English isn’t important in Belgium. In fact, English is the language of choice for business. It’s also in use in many government interactions.
Yet, in everyday life, French and Dutch are still the primary languages spoken. So, if you’re planning a trip to Belgium, it’s definitely worth brushing up on your French or Dutch.
If you need to talk in English, you’ll likely find that most people can understand and speak the language.
Is English Taught In Schools Of Belgium?
Yes, English is taught in schools in Belgium. Students have the opportunity to learn multiple languages. Additionally, higher education is affordable and accessible.
The Belgian education system is highly centralized. The federal government is responsible for most aspects of education. These include curriculum development, teacher certification, and funding.
Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. People also speak English throughout the country. As a result, many schools offer instruction in multiple languages.
In general, primary education in Belgium is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 18. Most children attend public schools. However, a small number of private schools are also available.\
At the secondary level, students can choose to attend either a general or a vocational track. The general track prepares students for university. The vocational track offers training in a specific trade or profession.
Higher education in Belgium is free of charge at public universities. A wide range of programs is available, including both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Overall, the Belgian education system provides students with a high-quality education.
Do People Speak English In Belgium At Workplace?
Yes, people in Belgium generally speak English at work. This is especially true in Brussels. Brussels is home to many international organizations and businesses.
However, there are some exceptions depending on the sector you work in. In more traditional businesses, French is often used more than English. For example, such as banking or insurance.
In newer and more international companies, English is generally the language of business. So it really varies from workplace to workplace.
But in general, you will be able to get by speaking English in most workplaces in Belgium.
However, honest advice is to learn at least some French or Dutch first. This is because these are the official languages of Belgium.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about English in Belgium!
Overall, people do speak English in Belgium. So visitors shouldn’t have too much trouble communicating with locals during their travels.
Dutch, French, and German are undoubtedly the official languages. But English is actually the most popular language, thanks to globalization and education.
So don’t worry if you don’t speak any other languages. Chances are good that you’ll be able to get by just fine with English!
However, it’s always polite to learn at least a few phrases in the local language(s) wherever you go!
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