Anne picked up De Morgen this morning, and we have been discussing a peculiar article by one Luc Van Doorslaer about how evil the Francophone Belgians are. Van Doorslaer has two pieces of evidence for his thesis, one being an academic survey of Belgian media that demonstrates that Flemish journalists read more English-language sources than Francophone journalists do, the other being – get this, folks – Wikipedia.

…Wikipedia, zoals bekend veruit de meest gebruikte bron van informatie onder jongeren. Onder het trefwood ‘Belgique’ lees ik in verband met de talensituatie de volgende: …Wikipedia, well known as the source of information most often used by younger people. If I look at the article on ‘Belgique’ I find the following commentary on the language situation:
D’un point de vue territorial, le français est en progression, en Flandre (près de Bruxelles, ou dans les environs de la frontière française à côté de Lille), mais également en zone germanophone. Cette tendance est une tendance naturelle constatée depuis des siècles avec l’augmentation des communications et de la facilité de voyager, qui exige de plus en plus une homogénéisation des langues, les langues importantes gagnant toujours progressivement sur les langues locales ou les patois. Considered territorially, the French language is making progress, in Flanders (near Brussels, or around the French border near Lille) and also in the German-speaking area. This is a natural tendency, as demonstrated by centuries of improving communications and easier travel, in which important languages have consistently won out over local languages or patois (dialects).
Ik wrijf mij ogen uit en lees dit opnieuw: ‘le français est en progression‘, ‘une tendance naturelle‘, ‘les langues importantes gagnant toujours‘, ‘les patois‘. Dit is het discours dat ik in de 19de-eeuwse teksten vaker ben tegengekomen, maar het staat vandaag de dag in de meest gebruikte bron van informatie. I rub my eyes and read it again: ‘the French language is making progress‘, ‘a natural tendency‘, ‘important languages consistently win out‘, ‘patois‘. This is the discourse I have often encountered in 19th-century textbooks, but it is to be found today in the most used source of information.

I fear that Van Doorslaer’s commentary reveals more about the intellectual weakness of the Flemish nationalists than the Walloons. He hasn’t really demonstrated that French-speakers in general take the French version of Wikipedia particularly seriously; and he hasn’t demonstrated at all that the offending article was even written by a Belgian, rather than, say, a Parisian or Quebecker to whom all dialects of Dutch are a mere patois. It would be more impressive if Flemish commentators like Van Doorslaer started reading the francophone press in Belgium directly, rather than relying on academic studies and Wikipedia articles, in order to get a better understanding of what their fellow citizens think – and in particular, to explain to the Flemings what the Walloons say about themselves and vice versa. Otherwise it is mere polemicism masquerading as analysis.

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