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Multilingualism in Brussels – English is the “cherry on the cake” 10 November 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in Brussels.
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No surprise that Brussels is growing more multilingual. The third Taalbarometer study by VUB (n=2,500) shows that 104 maternal languages are spoken in Brussels, the most important of which are:

Brussels multilingualism

I was surprised at the scale of French predominance. However not only the population as whole, but individuals, are becoming more multilingual. The total of languages spoken is 168%, meaning that on average we each speak 12/3 languages “well” or “very well”. Only 40% of people grow up in a home where only French and/or Dutch are spoken.

be autifulThe most recent Taalbarometer study was made in 2011, but Pascal Smet, now Flemish Minister of Education but formerly a very tram- and bike-friendly Brussels mobility minister,  has suggested in an interview with EurActiv that Brussels should consider making English an official language. Coincidentally, the current fun ‘be Brussels’ campaign invites you to submit slogans in French, Dutch and English.  I like ‘be lingualism’ and of course ‘be er’.However for the moment the policy accent is on French-Dutch bilingualism, with English “the cherry on the cake”.

For Brussels, multilingualism is one of the chief sources of comparative advantage. See Brussels’s Marnix plan for a truly multilingual capital for the European Union, launched in September.

Postscript – be Bruxel

Now here’s a great idea from Bram Boriau in Brusselnieuws – rebrand BR/uxelles/ussel/üssel/ussels simply as BRUXEL, and save us all the bother. Plenty of towns have been renamed in history – and incidentally it’s already the city’s name in Ido.


It’s already under way! Hilde Maelstaf informs me that all teachers/professors at universities and applied universities in the Flemish region need to pass an English test organised by the British Council.


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