Languages in Belgium

Belgium has three official languages and it pays to learn at least one of them. They are French, Dutch and German.

Almost 60% of the Belgian population speak Dutch as their first language, 40% are francophone’s and there is a small German speaking region (with less than 2% of the population) in the eastern part of the country along the German border. The French spoken in Belgium is standard but with its own distinctive accent (at least according to the French!) and a few specialised words.

Belgium is officially divided into linguistic regions, with Dutch the official language of the five northern and north-eastern provinces (Antwerp, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Limburg and West Flanders). French is the official language of the five Walloon provinces in the south (Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Namur and Walloon Brabant). The city of Brussels and its surrounding area are legally designated as a bilingual region, although individual towns may insist on asserting one language over the other, depending on the results of the latest local elections. Even the small German population is recognised as a distinct linguistic region under Belgian law.

English is widely spoken in and around Brussels and Antwerp and you will tend to find more English speakers in the Dutch parts of the country.

As Brussels is the home of the European Union you can expect to encounter languages from all across the continent as diplomats from Europe and the rest of the world often gather in the city. It’s a good idea to try and learn at least one of the languages spoken in Belgium as bi-lingual people are often in high demand for jobs.