87 languages spoken in the Flemish periphery


In the group of 19 cities that make up the Flemish periphery around Brussel, diversity is increasing, and the use of Dutch has seen a slight decline, according to the new Taalbarometer

School is key

A new survey has shown that knowledge of Dutch has fallen in de Rand, the Flemish periphery around Brussels, especially in Vilvoorde, Machelen and Zaventem – home to large employers such as Brussels Airport and major multinational companies. The study also shows that non-EU citizens are more likely to speak Dutch than francophone Belgians.

The findings come from the second Taalbarometer language study. Professor Rudi Janssens of the Brussels Information, Documentation and Research Centre carried out the survey at the request of the Flemish government to gauge the situation in the periphery’s 19 municipalities.

The first study was published in 2015, with data gathered the year before. The most recent results are based on data from a representative sample of almost 2,500 adults between January and September last year.

“Diversity is increasing in the 19 municipalities in the Rand, meaning there are more languages being spoken. That is often at the cost of Dutch and French. Managing this diversity is therefore a huge challenge,” said Janssens, who attributes the changes to people moving to the Rand from Brussels.

However, he added: “Speakers of other languages are more likely to choose Dutch-language education and consciously introduce Dutch as a second language at home.”

Dutch-language education is not only a choice for your children’s future career, it can also be a choice for Flemish community life

- Minister Ben Weyts

Knowledge of Dutch among residents of the Rand has fallen slightly in the past four years, with the percentage of those who speak “good to excellent” Dutch decreasing from 69.9% in 2014 to 68.5% today. The research shows that Dutch is spoken at some level in most households; since the first study, the proportion of those who speak only Dutch at home has fallen from 50% to 45% while the proportion of those who speak only French has remained broadly the same at 32%.

The periphery appears to be becoming more diverse and multicultural, with 87 languages spoken compared to 75 in the last survey. After Dutch and French, English is the most widely spoken language.

Among francophone Belgians in the Rand, those with a good knowledge of Dutch fell from 77.5% in 2014 to 76.3% today. But among non-EU nationals, the figure increased from 14.6% to 24.5% in the same period.

The Taalbarometer notes that Flemish schools in the Rand are an important driver for the language. “Choosing Dutch-language education is not only a choice for your children’s future career, it can also be a choice for Flemish community life,” said Ben Weyts, the minister responsible for policies in the Rand. “We can support this by, for example, offering more Dutch courses in schools for adults while providing childcare.”

Photo courtesy iedertalenttelt.be