Belgian Languages: the Secrets of a Multilingual Nation

Belgian culture, history, and linguistic environment are well-known worldwide. But in this post, I want to show you all the languages spoken in this unique country, and how they are distributed in a rather unusual way.

What is the official language of Belgium?

Dutch, French, and German are the three official languages of Belgium. Dutch and French are the two languages that are most often spoken, with a very small percentage of people speaking German.

Belgium Language Map
Belgium Language Map – Courtesy of Wikimedia

Dutch (Flemish)

The most commonly used language in Belgium is Dutch. It is spoken in the northern part of the country in the region known as Flanders. The specific Dutch spoken in Belgium is referred to as Flemish. Although, in reality, it is very close to the Dutch spoken in Holland and they certainly understand one another if they meet on the street.  

The term “Flemish” is also used to identify the regional dialects and accents found inside the Dutch-speaking portion of Belgium. These Flemish dialects include Limburgish, Brabantian, West Flemish, and East Flemish, just to name a few. 


Almost 40% of the population speak French as their first language. This makes it the second most spoken language in Belgium.

French is spoken mostly in the southern region of Belgium in an area known as Wallonia. It is also spoken in the bilingual 

Almost 40% of the population speak French as their first language. This makes it the second most spoken language in Belgium. The southern part of Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Area is home to the majority of the French-speaking population. In the Medieval Ages, when it was the language of the aristocracy and the government, French had a long history in Belgium.

Belgian French, often known as Belgian French, is a dialect of French that shares many vocabulary, pronunciation, and expressional similarities with French as it is spoken in France. The French Community of Belgium has its own government and parliament, as well as a distinct cultural identity and set of political institutions.

In the bilingual capital city of Belgium, Brussels, as well as the Wallonia region, French is extensively spoken. Both Dutch and French are accepted as official languages in Brussels, where government operations, academic institutions, and commercial transactions are all performed.


With only 1% of the people speaking it as their mother tongue, German is Belgium’s third-least-spoken official language. German-speaking communities in Belgium are mostly found in the eastern section of Wallonia, close to the German border. This region is known as the German-speaking Community of Belgium.

With the handover of numerous German-speaking municipalities from Germany to Belgium following World War I, this community received official status and autonomy in 1973. With a few minor regional changes, the German spoken in Belgium is close to the standard German used in Germany.

The German-speaking Community of Belgium, despite its tiny size, has its own administration and parliament, who are in charge of things like social affairs, culture, and education inside its borders. In this region, German is utilized in commerce, education, and official communication.

Belgium Speaks More Foreign Languages

In addition to the three official languages, the population of Belgium speaks a large number of other international languages. With 38% of the people proficient in it, English is the most widely spoken foreign language. English is widely used in commerce, academics, and tourism, and it is being taught more frequently in schools as a second language. Belgium’s central location in Europe, membership in international organizations like the European Union and NATO, and the influence of Anglophone culture and media are all major contributors to the language’s popularity in Belgium.

In addition to English, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese are also spoken in Belgium. The majority of people who have immigrated to Belgium over the past few decades and their descendants speak these languages. Several linguistic groups contribute to the country’s linguistic and cultural variety and have influenced Belgium’s cosmopolitan nature.

Luxembourgish & Minority Languages

Luxembourgish is used by a tiny group of people in the country’s southeast close to the border with Luxembourg. It is also a West Germanic language with close ties to German and Dutch, Luxembourgish has many characteristics in common with the Moselle Franconian dialects of the region.

Belgians also speak West Frisian, Picard, Walloon, and Yiddish as minorities. These languages are mostly spoken inside their respective communities and are only spoken by a small group of people.  The Belgian government supports efforts aimed at promoting and conserving these minority languages because it understands how important it is to maintain the nation’s linguistic diversity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Flemish A Language?

Flemish is actually a dialect of Dutch spoken in Northern Belgium. It is very similar to the Dutch spoken in Holland, however, there are also regional differences within Belgium with some being closer to standard Dutch than others.

What are the 3 official languages of Belgium?

The three official languages spoken in Belgium are Dutch (Flemish), French and German.

Is Belgian A Language?

No, there is no specific Belgian languages. There are instead three official languages – Dutch, French and German. The Dutch spoken is often referred to as Flemish and is actually specific to Belgium, however it is not called Belgian.

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