Google+ Authentic Parenting: Bilingual in Belgium

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bilingual in Belgium

This post is written for the Bilingual for Fun Carnival, Hosted by Bilingual For Fun. I originally wanted to write something lighter, but given my countries current political situation, I thought it called for a related post.

Being Belgian means we come from a tiny country, where the longest drive from one point to another without crossing an international border is 3 hours, yet there ar three different language groups. Yes, three. People tend to forget that there is a small German-speaking part of the country. We tend to ignore that part of Belgium to the extent that they aren't even included in the political debacle.
I distinctly write political debacle, because the Belgian crisis is little more than a crisis created on the political level.

The Belgian people, for the most part, couldn't care less. And for those who actually know people from the other side, there is little or no friction whatsoever. There is no such thing as ethnic trouble... for we are etnically confused. We're not much of anything really, so we don't think about it much and just go about our day. Are we one people? Two peoples? No people? All of the above? I don't know, and frankly I couldn't care less.

Me, I am Flemish, my mother was Flemish and my father too, although he spend the integrity of his youth on Walloon territory, in a French-speaking school. My mom's mother's parents were from Brussels... Kind of messes up things, as Brussels is bilingual and we don't really know what it belongs to (the very modern day Belgian politics thing to do was to split that off to and have it as another seperate territory).
My husband is bilingual (French/Dutch). Born in Brussels from a Flemish kind of bourgoisie mother (they historically tend to speak French because that's classier) and a Walloon father. He was schooled in the Flemish part of Belgium and also went to a Flemish university, and that's where we met.
My eldest brother married a Walloon girl, too, and lives close to Brussels.
My daughter was born in Brussels and is raised bilingually. She speaks mostly French, because that's the main language here in Ivory Coast. She speaks Dutch with me and our family's carrier language is Dutch, but for the rest of the day, it is only French.

We are but one family, but there are many others like us, interlaced and intertwined. Truly Belgian. If the country would seperate, what would that make us? Would I have to go and demand amnesty in Brussels? Would I be a political refugee? What would my daughter be? Or my husband? Would we just get to pick?
How arbitrary and truly trivial this all is.

If we'd all just be one bilingual country there would be no issues. Even more daring, trilingual! Imagine the benefits! Imagine the advantage one would have internationally. Is it so difficult to just have the kids learn all of the countries' languages?



  1. Hi!

    My husband is nissei - his parents are from Japan. He was born in Brazil and grew up speaking and listening both language (portuguese and japanese) and nobody told him that they were speaking two languages. In his mind portuguese was like that: full of 'Genki desu ka'. heheh So when he was sent to school he used to speak portuguese mixed with japanese. Of course nobody could understand him outside his community and he had a hard time figuring why everyone was looking at him with that face of 'what are you talking??". Poor japanese boy... :)

  2. Great insight on a side of Belgium that I never knew!!

  3. @Barbara, poor thing. I had a friend like that, who didn't know Dutch and French were different languages. It's important to be consistent with who speaks what to the child

    @Susan: Glad you liked it :)

  4. Hello and thanks for your comment. I am loving your hometown by the way :). It is a very difficult situation here with languages. It's so sad to see how discriminating people can be regarding linguistic upbringing and how very political itall is.
    I had a bit of a look aroundyour blog and it seems we have A LOT in common. :)I look forward to reading more.
    Sandra -

  5. Glad to hear that, Sandra. I became a follower, so I'll keep myself updated. Looking forward to reading more of your blog :)

  6. I hadn't realized that German was spoken in Belgium! Is it indeed an official language, or is it more like German in Alsace (France), where lots of older people understand it and speak the Alsatian dialect but the younger generation neither understands it well nor speaks it as well?

    I recently profiled a multilingual family in Belgium on my blog: I would be interested in profiling your family as well, especially because most of the Francophone families I have featured live in the US, Canada, France, and England. Please email me at babybilingual (at) gmail (dot) com if you'd like to see the questionnaire and consider my request!

  7. Yes, there is a German-speaking part of Belgium. It's a part we got after one of the WW's. They even have their own community. Most people (even Belgians) tend to forget them; though

  8. consider yourselves lucky lovelies :)

    im a born and bred aussie through and through, english and only english speaking. have to travel half way around the world just to get somewhere else... i love australia, ill always call australia home, but one does have to wonder about the big wide practically-inaccessible-when-on-a-budget-if-it-werent-for-the-internet world out there.

    its been so fascinting to learn about the ways of other countries and cultures and im ever intrigued of what im going to read next. youre all lucky to be living such colourful lives (not in a bad way, lol), as learning about other people is what keeps us from being selfish.

    its been a joy to be able to peer into the windows of your lives, and i mean that i the least sleeziest way possible!


I love comments! Drop me a line