The Many Languages of Belgium

languageBelgium has three official languages, which are in order of native speaker population in Belgium: Dutch, French and German. A number of non-official minority languages are spoken as well.

As no census exists, there are no official statistical data regarding the distribution or usage of Belgium’s three official languages or their dialects.[citation needed] However, various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the second-language status of foreign born, may provide suggested figures. An estimated 59% of the Belgian population speaks Dutch (often colloquially referred to as “Flemish”), and French is spoken by 40% of the population.
Bilingual signs in Brussels.

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Total Dutch speakers are 6.23 million, concentrated in the northern Flanders region, while French speakers comprise 3.32 million in Wallonia and an estimated 0.87 million or 85% of the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.The German-speaking Community is made up of 73,000 people in the east of the Walloon Region; around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian nationals are speakers of German. Roughly 23,000 more German speakers live in municipalities near the official Community.

Both Belgian Dutch and Belgian French have minor differences in vocabulary and semantic nuances from the varieties spoken respectively in the Netherlands and France. Many Flemish people still speak dialects of Dutch in their local environment. Walloon, once the main regional language of Wallonia, is now only understood and spoken occasionally, mostly by elderly people. Wallonia’s dialects, along with those of Picard,are not used in public life.