English is the second language of Brussels

A fascinating 10-page paper from www.brusselsstudies.be on linguistic diversity in Europe and especially in Brussels.

In particular, check out this graph from page 6:

English is more widely spoken than Dutch in both Wallonia and Brussels, and almost as widely spoken as French in Flanders. The paper then gives 1999 figures, and reasonably extrapolates from them to conclude that fewer than half of Brussels residents are now native French speakers (fewer than 10% native Dutch speakers, and very few indeed native English speakers). The author is upbeat:

…the spectacular spread of English is not only inevitable but also desirable, especially in Brussels. In Europe and the rest of the world we absolutely need a common language, one that is not monopolized by a small elite but is widely spread amongst all sections of the population. Through accidents of history this role has fallen to English. For us Belgians, what a stroke of luck! Whether our mother tongue is French or Dutch, of the 6000 languages spoken in the world today, English is one of the 10 to 15 languages that lie closest to our own. Even better: if there is one language in the world that can claim to lie precisely midway between French and Dutch, it is English and only English, which is after all but a dialect very similar to Frisian, which the Angles took with them when they crossed the Channel in the fifth century and which was later made unrecognisable by some Vikings who, after a few centuries of French lessons in Normandy, crossed the channel in turn to simplify its grammar and graft 10,000 French words onto it. Some inveterate narcissists will perhaps still manage to complain about the fact that the chosen language is not precisely the same as the one in which they were rocked by their mum. But this should not stop us rejoicing at our incredible luck.

Worth reading the whole thing.

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1 Response to English is the second language of Brussels

  1. scott_lynch says:

    Sigh. What a waste. I’ve always thought that Colin Baker’s natural charisma, his energy, his imposing demeanor, all could have been harnessed to create a superb incarnation… throw out that desperate-cry-for-help wardrobe and give him something more subdued, perhaps Sherlockian… ah well.

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